Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson

For three decades we’ve covered many amazing basketball characters, but some stand above the rest—not only because of their on-court skills (though those are always relevant), but because of how they influenced and continue to influence basketball culture, and thus influenced SLAM. Meanwhile, SLAM has also changed those players’ lives in various ways, as we’ve documented their careers with classic covers, legendary photos, amazing stories, compelling videos and more. 

We compiled a group of individuals (programming note: 30 entries, not 30 people total) who mean something special to SLAM and to our audience. Read the full list here and order your copy of SLAM 248, where this list was originally published, here.

As they tell it, Darius and Q were on their way to being AND1 guys when Michael Jordan himself made sure they joined Jordan Brand. Jump, men. They got all sorts of rare retro PEs, head-tapped their way into the public consciousness back when Melo was still hoopin’ at Towson Catholic, landed a well-deserved KICKS cover. They were an unlikely pairing who meshed in unlikely ways; Miles a willowy 6-9 rim runner who ate up the court with huge strides, Richardson a solid 6-6 with a seemingly bottomless post-up bag and three-point range.

It’s kind of crazy to look back and realize that Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson played just two seasons together. The Clippers drafted them 15 picks apart in 2000—Darius third, Q 18th—and split them up in the summer of 2002 when Darius was dealt (along with Harold Jamison) to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andre Miller and Bryant Stith. In those two seasons, the Clippers won 70 combined games and did not make the playoffs. Miles started 27 games, Richardson 28. From a basketball standpoint, it was barely a ripple—the anticipated Clippers revival (or perhaps vival, wasn’t no “re” about it) never really transpired, at least not until the rise of Lob City. But you can’t just measure impact by Ws and Ls or points or any of that.

Miles was the one with the superstar vibe, the one who ended up on the “Roc L.A. Familia” SLAM cover alongside Lamar Odom and Elton Brand, all wearing each other’s jerseys. Elton was far from alone in rocking an oversized Miles 21 jersey, wasn’t even the only one to wear it backward. Miles had Iverson’s vibe and Pippen’s game, a long, lanky stat-sheet filler who on his best nights looked like he could very well fulfill the promise that led to Sports Illustrated putting him on their cover with Kevin Garnett peeking out from behind.

Want a wild stat? The Clippers weren’t very good, only had four nationally televised games in Darius’ and Q’s two seasons—one in their first season, three in their second—but the Clippers went 4-0 in those games, including a win over the Shaq and Kobe two-time defending champion Lakers in January 2002. In their final national TV game, against the Mavs a week later, they both played 30-plus minutes off the bench, both scored 15 points, both filled every box-score box—hit a three, had at least one rebound, assist, steal and block.

Their Clippers promise went mostly unfulfilled—which perhaps should not have come as a surprise given a young team in the Donald Sterling days. A rose might grow from concrete, but it is not a common occurrence. As for expectations, those are ours, something separate from the careers that actually play out. So after the summer of 2002, Darius and Q wound up journeymen on their own journeys: Darius with injury-plagued years in Cleveland, Portland and Memphis; Q breaking the Suns single-season three-point record in Phoenix before playing in New York (twice), Miami and Orlando. Darius played his last game at 27, Q at 33; both of their final seasons mere epilogues.

But their stories didn’t end, their journeys weren’t over. And a full decade-plus after their final games, they’d reunite—on a podcast this time—as the Knuckleheads, both giving flowers to former teammates and opponents as well as receiving their own. They’re both active on social media, often in SLAM’s IG comments showing love to both active and retired hoopers. Maybe Darius and Q were never All-Stars and never won championships, but they found one another, they bent basketball culture in their direction, and honestly? That’s more than enough. 

Photo via Getty Images.

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