Why ‘SLAM’ Magazine Is Basketball's Brand of 2020

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There aren’t many brands that represent basketball culture better than SLAM magazine. With a rich 26-year history, SLAM has become a prominent voice in basketball at all levels of the sport. The magazine has featured countless players on its cover and created some quintessential moments in basketball history. 

The legacy brand has a long history with some iconic covers. Their first issue in 1994 featured ‘90s star Larry Johnson on the cover. Everyone remembers the classic Los Angeles Clippers cover with Lamar Odom, Elton Brand and Darius Miles all donning each other’s jerseys. The Allen Iverson Afro look with a retro Sixers uniform is a cover that can’t be forgotten. Recently, the magazine had a cover of Devin Booker, D’Angelo Russell and Karl Anthony-Towns. The feature was newsworthy as well, since the three friends voiced their yearning to play together eventually.

In the digital age, magazines are not a major source of revenue. Gone are the days when subscriptions were through the roof and drove revenue. Many publications have severely cut their circulation and issue releases, and SLAM is, unfortunately, no exception. Formerly a monthly magazine, SLAM now releases a new issue bimonthly.

Brands such as SLAM now leverage their social media following to grow an audience that will attract advertisers. To cultivate that social media presence, a brand has to be original and create content that will draw in new viewers and stand out among the highly competitive digital landscape. In 2019, SLAM came up with the idea to drive a sprinter splashed with previous covers of the magazine around the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, for All-Star Weekend. They conducted interviews and held events at various locations. 

SLAM has made its mark by creating its own social moments. They have also placed a premium on live content, developing their own high school basketball showcase, the Summer Classic at Dyckman Park. According to Front Office Sports, SLAM’s showcase had more than 420,000 people streaming the event in New York City on Facebook. SLAM has taken off on Instagram, where they have multiple accounts—covering the NBA, fashion, high school, sneakers, the WNBA, gaming and throwbacks of their catalog—that have amassed millions of followers. 

One of those accounts, LeagueFits has taken off. As the NBA has added fashion and style to its growing list of off-the-court attractions, SLAM has capitalized on this with LeagueFits. The account has 434,000 followers and growing, and NBA players have found a new way to compete in fashion, with the account showcasing the best fits and fashion choices from around the league. 

A smart strategy in SLAM’s ability to connect with players is reaching them at a young age. With features on high school hoopers, players are growing up with the brand at a young age. That allows them to connect with the SLAM brand as a familiar face later on when they reach the pros. A perfect example is LeBron James. SLAM covered James as a 16-year old phenom, and that coverage has continued into LeBron’s current status as a 35-year-old superstar veteran.

Though magazines aren’t as important from a sales perspective now, making the cover of SLAM magazine is a big deal for any basketball player. In a way, it signifies that a player has made it. There's sentimental value in that. It can’t be measured in likes, clicks or prestige. It means that a player has reached that status of having realized their dream as an NBA pro and is an important step in their quest to ascend to superstar status. SLAM is at the epicenter of basketball culture, covering basketball at the grassroots stage to the mountaintop that is NBA basketball—and everything else in between.

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