McCollum Gets First SLAM Cover, Praise From Kobe Bryant

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

CJ McCollum's profile has grown consistently and considerably since the 6-5 guard out of Lehigh won the NBA's Most Improved Player award in 2016. After assuming his rightful place as the Trail Blazers' starting two guard, McCollum has gone on to sign a four-year, $106 million contract extension, inked a lucrative sponsorship deal with Chinese sportswear company Li-Ning and has been featured in a national ad campaign for Banana Republic. But even with all that attention and recognition, McCollum had not graced the cover of a national magazine.

At least not until now. In the latest edition of SLAM Magazine, McCollum gets the coverboy treatment...

And with the cover typically comes a feature story, and McCollum's SLAM cover is now different, with local scribe Ananth Pandian going long on CJ's rise to stardom. It's worth a full read, though the quote from retired Laker and future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant might be the most interesting nugget...

Promoting McCollum to a starting spot immediately proved to be the right move for the Blazers, as he thrived in a larger role and won the 2015-16 Most Improved Player award with averages of 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.2 steals.

“You can always judge someone based on how they respond to turmoil,” McCollum says. “I struggled and I overcame it.”

“CJ never seemed to view himself the way the basketball market viewed him,” Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, the man CJ modeled his work ethic after, tells SLAM via email. “He always felt like he was better than what people viewed him to be. Because of that, I think he has always played with a chip on his shoulder. He’s always worked harder than everyone else to prove what he believed his value was.”

The me-against-the-world mentality that Bryant talks of is quite apparent when you watch CJ play. His swagger is almost unrivaled. And as “Law & Order: CJ’s Victims Unit” shows, McCollum will not only humiliate you—he’ll gladly demonstrate how he did it.

The latest issue of SLAM Magazine should be available where ever one buys magazine's these days sometime within the next few weeks.