THIS PAST December, when SLAM reached out to Paige Bueckers to tell her that she was going to be on the next cover, she responded with just two words: “Why me?” Bueckers, the No. 1 high school girls basketball player in the country and UConn commit, had just received a wave of honors, including the prestigious USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year award. But SLAM cover star? She didn’t see that coming.
“Seeing all the people who were on [the cover] before, I was like, Why me? I’m just a little white hooper from Minnesota,” she laughs. “Seeing that I was going to be on the cover as a high school athlete, it was just amazing, especially because the women’s basketball game doesn’t get as much love.”
Fewer than a handful of high school athletes—Bueckers included—have appeared on a solo SLAM cover over the course of the brand’s 26-year history. That could be some added pressure for an 18-year-old who is already viewed as one of the rising stars of women’s basketball.
But Bueckers has a different relationship to pressure. She seeks high-stakes situations because, quite simply, she wants to be great. Pressure is baked into the path she’s taken.
So when Geno Auriemma told reporters that he expects Bueckers to bean integral part of a UConn title run next season, the pressure didn’t faze her. “Coach told me pressure is when someone’s asking you to do something that you can’t do,” Bueckers says.
But what really drives Bueckers— more than any accolade, trophy or championship—is achieving her full potential. She made a pact with her best friend and 2021 No. 1 recruit Azzi Fudd that they would push each other to become the greatest they can be (“and that would be the greatest of all time”). With a goal as lofty as that, it’s easy to see why expectations of winning NCAA championships or having a solo SLAM cover as a high schooler wouldn’t seem like pressure at all.
“I’m so grateful and I thank God [for my accomplishments]. But at the same time, nobody talks about high school accomplishments or accolades,” Bueckers says. “I don’t want to just be a high school legend. I want to be someone that does it at college and then the pro level. I don’t want to be a bust or somebody that just washes away.”
With a mentality like that, how can you not bet on Paige Bueckers to succeed?
IT’S A TYPICALLY cold and snowy day at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, MN. The school’s field house contains six full-size basketball courts to accommodate the community throughout the frigid months when it’s too cold to go outside. At least 50 state championship banners stretch across the wall—the latest, a 2019 girls basketball state title.
Gunna and Drake reverberate off the walls as Bueckers poses for the camera in her black high school uniform with royal blue trim. Completing the look with the “Pinnacle” Air Jordan VIs and her signature dutch braids, Bueckers’ photo shoot drip is as swaggy as her play on the court.
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THE THIRD Coming
FOR DJ WAGNER, SON OF DAJUAN AND GRANDSON OF MILT—BOTH FORMER NBA PLAYERS—BASKETBALL RUNS IN HIS FAMILY’S BLOOD. OVER THE NEXT FEW YEARS, HE’LL USE THAT TALENT AND HIS NO. 1 RANKING IN THE CLASS OF 2023 TO LEAD CAMDEN HS TO THE TOP OF THE BASKETBALL WORLD (AGAIN).
STATE of the UNION
CHRIS PAUL HAS BEEN A NATURAL LEADER SINCE AS FAR BACK AS HE CAN REMEMBER. BUT THROUGH 2020, AS THE PRESIDENT OF THE NBPA, PAUL HAS LED ALL 450 NBA PLAYERS THROUGH THE MOST TURBULENT OF TIMES—THROUGH A PANDEMIC, A SOCIAL JUSTICE MOVEMENT, A BUBBLE, AND A SEASON THAT SOMEHOW STRETCHED 355 DAYS—AND THOSE LEADERSHIP ABILITIES HAVE BEEN MORE CRUCIAL THAN EVER. WE SPOKE WITH CP3 ABOUT THE LEGACY OF THE PAST YEAR AND MUCH MORE.
The Fresh Princesses of Blair
IT’S STRAIGHT UP DOMINATION WHEN OLIVIA MILES AND DOMINIQUE DARIUS, TWO OF THE BEST GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL PLAYERS IN THE COUNTRY, ARE ON THE FLOOR AT THE SAME TIME.
MEET THE SALAM SCHOOL STARS—AN ALL-MUSLIM GIRLS’ TEAM THAT’S CHALLENGING GENDER-NORMS WITHIN THEIR COMMUNITY.
Back For More
ATHLETIC PROPULSION LABS’ first basketball sneaker got banned from the NBA because it gave wearers an “advantage.” The brothers who launched the company have returned to the game 10 years later, with a duo of brand new sneakers.
3 the HARD WAY
THREE NBA CHAMPIONSHIPS WITH THREE DIFFERENT TEAMS MEANS DANNY GREEN KNOWS A THING OR THREE ABOUT WINNING. AS HE WRITES HERE, THE THIRD WAS THE MOST SATISFYING.
Though her first year in the WNBA was anything but normal, Atlanta dream star Chennedy Carter is on her way to a long career in front of the bright lights.
NO MERCY, NO FEAR
THE NBA IS BACK AND NEW ORLEANS PELICANS STAR ZION WILLIAMSON IS AS CONFIDENT AS HE’S EVER BEEN. LET THIS BE YOUR FINAL WARNING.
THE PEOPLE'S CHAMP
NATASHA CLOUD HAS ALWAYS FOUGHT FOR WHAT’S RIGHT. BY OPTING OUT OF THE 2020 WNBA SEASON TO FOCUS ON SOCIAL JUSTICE, THE REIGNING CHAMP CONTINUES HER FIGHT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY.
MEET ROBBY SIKKA, THE SUPERFAN TURNED DOCTOR TURNED NBA TEAM VP WHOSE EXPERTISE HAS BEEN CRUCIAL FOR THE NBA THROUGHOUT THE PANDEMIC.
HERO NEVER GAVE UP ON MISSING GIRL, 13!
Clever cop goes motel to motel in search of perv who allegedly took her
I thought I knew my father well: his devotion to family, his solid faith. A slip of paper in a forgotten Bible revealed more
The Long Game: Covid Changed The Way We Play, Watch, Cheer
It’s the predictable rhythm of sports that draws us in.
SCOTT'S SPORTS SPOT - Basketball returns
Brown sinks 1,000th point
James Brown on what matters most: faith, family, football, and following your heart
KOBE BRYANT & DAUGHTER DIDN'T STAND A CHANCE!
Gianna and Kobe died while on their way to a girls’ basketball tournament
PANINI ANNOUNCES KOBE REDEMPTION PLANS
KOBE BRYANT’S SUDDEN PASSING IN JANUARY CREATED A LOT OF HOLES. WHILE MOST ARE EMOTIONAL, THERE ARE SOME MORE PRACTICAL THINGS TO BE TAKEN CARE OF. TO THAT END, PANINI HAS ANNOUNCED PLANS FOR THE REMAINING KOBE BRYANT AUTOGRAPH REDEMPTIONS.
THE SCOUTING REPORT - 2020 PANINI IMMACULATE COLLEGIATE BASKETBALL
2020 Panini Immaculate Collegiate Basketball takes the premium brand online as an exclusive for the company’s website. And while the distribution may be smaller, the focus on incoming rookies and high-end cards remains the same. Five of the six cards in each hobby box are either autographs or memorabilia cards.
GOOD VIBES ONLY SOFI TUKKER
This month's cover story features 2X GRAMMY nominated musical duo that we have been a fan of for awhile now.
PLANNING TRAVEL BECOMES MORE COMPLICATED DURING PANDEMIC
Planning travel for college basketball teams can be complicated. Flights and hotels have to be booked, buses rented, meals planned. Schedules have to be worked around practices and games.