Nik Featured on Iconic Cover
“Ready or not… Here they come!”
It was a bold statement at the time of publication in 1996 – after all, the 11 players featured had yet to play an NBA minute.
However, the hype-fueled rookie class of ’96 showcased an array of otherworldly talent – a high-school phenom (Kobe Bryant), UCONN shooting stud (Ray Allen), Canadian wunderkind (Steve Nash), rising Brooklyn guard (Stephon Marbury) and many more. Several of which will soon be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
In a tribute to the original issue, this month, SLAM recreated the iconic cover with members of another uber-talented group of rooks. Which it questions, “The best rookie class since… ’03? ’96?? ’84???”
SLAM publisher Dennis Paige, who helped conceive the classic cover, “decided a long time ago that 2014 was the time to do it again” according to a blog announcing the newest cover, the post later describes the group of 12 as “an already legendary rookie class.”
Among the chosen few to appear on the publication is Sacramento’s draftee, Nik Stauskas, who learned of his place in the photo at the League’s annual Rookie Transition Program.
“I was so excited!” said a wide-eyed Stauskas at Day 1 of Kings Training Camp. “The ‘96 class has a lot of Hall of Famers in it, so for [SLAM] to compare us to them is just an honor.”
The magazine stated during the process of staging the photo – prior to the rookies being told they were posing to recreate the SLAM 15 cover image – their models looked perplexed, “wondering why a couple of scrawny editors were moving them around with such specificity.” They were determined to replicate this photo so exactly that Stauskas stood in the same position fellow Canadian guard Steve Nash stood in the photo 18 years earlier.
“I’ve known Steve since I was about 15 years old,” Stauskas revealed. “He’s almost been like a big brother to me at times.”
Nash offered Stauskas advice and support throughout his college career, as well as during the Draft process.
“He’s a great guy,” added the Kings guard.
The excitement generated around this particular rookie class exploded during the 2013-14 season. “In the sports world, [hype] happens with an electric performance, or better yet, a whole string of them,” writes SLAM.
Like ’96, buildup has earned the ’14 class a place on the revered basketball publication.
“Coming into last season, nobody expected me to be in this position,” said Stauskas with a chuckle, “Last year, I don’t think anyone had me leaving Michigan and entering the Draft.”
Being a top-10 pick and considered part of a similar group that featured iconic players, such as Bryant and Allen, is incredible praise for the rookie.
Growing up, Stauskas’ talent stood out among his appears but while attending prep school in Boston, he simply became another member of the student body.
“Even when I got to Michigan, no one really knew who I was,” said the Ontario native. “So I don’t think the real hype started for me until my sophomore season.”
Stauskas laughed off the implication his draft class could set the bar even higher for future players, saying he won’t think of it because of the potential for ensuing pressure.
“Hopefully, down the road, it leads all of us to being star players… Right now, my focus is just working hard.”
Regardless of what the future holds, No. 10 is not on the cover without merit.