by Lang Whitaker | @langwhitaker

Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays. At least, that’s how the song goes, and it’s been true in my life, too. While locations have varied, I’ve spent every Christmas Day of my life with family. This year, because things here at SLAM are so crazy — we’re literally shipping pages so late that Santa will be delivering the last few columns — I knew I was going to have to make my holiday visits brief. I was even starting to allow myself to feel sorry for myself.

And then I got an email from James the Balla.

If you’re relatively new around these parts, James the Balla was a frequent commenter here on SLAMonline. Even though I didn’t really know much about him, I felt like we knew him, same as I feel about most of you who spend all day arguing in our comments sections. A few months ago I ran an email from James, explaining why we weren’t going to be hearing much from him anymore: James was in the military, and he was heading off to the Middle East. James’ email drew a lot of comments and well-wishes from you guys, and it was cool to be reminded that each and every one of us who partakes in this big SLAMonline.com party has a life that takes precedence, even above and beyond our opinions about who should be the MVP or which team is going to win the NBA title.

As I’ve said before, maybe all of us here on SLAMonline all don’t agree on everything, but we are a family. To me, that’s what makes SLAMonline so great. We argue, we fight, we disagree, we agree. But at the end of the day, we’re a community, a family.

Anyway, I checked my email the other day and had an email waiting from James:

Happy Holidays SLAM,

Over the last month I have been wondering what to write and if I was going to keep this short. I will write what I can and leave it up to Lang on if he wants to cut some out or post it how it is (if Lang even posts it). So here we go: 

I have been here for roughly 40 days, and time is flying. It’s hard saying anything about whjamesat I do, or describing anything (the picture is me heading to dinner). But what I can tell you is that I am doing great.

Not being on SLAMonline sucks! The computers here are too slow and there isn’t enough time to get on to the site. I do, however, stop by every second day usually to read some titles, trying to catch a glimpse of anything on Kobe and my Lakers. I don’t know much about what is going on in the NBA, but it seems like my Lakers lost a few games in a row at one point. My amazing Mother though has sent me some Christmas gifts, along with the Lupe Fiasco SLAM… sorry, I mean the John Wall SLAM. God love her, she didn’t wrap it because she knew I would want to read it right away.

Before I get into what I want to say, I have a few questions and comments about the season so far.

– What happened to Jennings? He seems to have fallen into some mediocrity?
— Blake Griffin seems to be killin’ it!
— Spurs, WTF?
— I think my Lakers will win the chip this year, and they will beat out Orlando in seven games.
— I also am wondering how LeBron’s fans are doing? With Kobe having better stats, does this mean that Kobe is better than Bron now? Because that’s why LeBron has been regarded as the best basketball player the last two years, correct? LOL, just trying to get the Bron fans going!

Last thing: I was able to watch 4 minutes of a NO/OKC game the other night while sitting at mess. I was on a 30 degree angle so I couldn’t make out who was who, but it was 4th quarter and the game was close. Also had no sound, and I was far away from the TV, but it still made my night!

To the meaning of this e-mail now. I wanted to say Merry Christmas to everyone, where ever you are or where ever you live! I miss being on SLAM every day, and arguing about stupid basketball topics. To anyone reading this, if you get to spend the Holidays with your family or friends, a loved one, or boyfriend or girlfriend… Take this time and cherish it. Drop stupid arguments and really enjoy your Holidays and the Christmas spirit… or whatever you celebrate during this time of year. Next year you may not get the same opportunities as this year.

I myself will be working roughly 8,600 kms away from any of my family or old friends. So please, spend as much time as you can with the people closest to you. I would give up a lot of things just to eat my Mother’s dry turkey (don’t tell her I said that), but instead I will be eating turkey off of a tray…or maybe out of a box, LOL. Enjoy the Christmas Day games, and if it isn’t asking too much, cheer for my Lakers…

No? Too much? I miss y’all like a step brother. 

Merry Christmas everyone, have a safe and happy holidays. Please don’t drink and drive! A special shout out to (in no particular order Eboy!): Eboy, Jukai, DP, Moose, BET, Bryan, Anton, Teddy, Cheryl, Holly, and anyone else I am forgetting. I apologize if I missed anyone I talk to a lot — this e-mail has to be done rather quickly. 

A special shout out to Lang. If this gets posted or whatever he does with it, I appreciate him giving me the opportunity to say what’s up and Merry Christmas.

Talk to you guys in a few months.

James

So I wrote James back…

James:

Great to hear from you man. The pic of you with the SLAM over there is so cool — thanks for sending that along. I’m going to post your email just before the Christmas break, so I’ll hang on to this for now.

In the meantime, to answer your questions:

— Brandon’s played OK, but Milwaukee’s had a lot of injury problems. They’re finally just now getting everyone healthy. [I wrote this before Brandon broke his foot.]
— Griffin’s been dope. Mostly just dunking on everyone, but yeah, he’s had a great start.
— The Spurs have turned back into the old Spurs, grinding everyone down. They’re playing great so far.

Some follow-up questions for you: What’s it like there? Where are you (if you’re allowed to say)? What’s your schedule like? Are you out and about or are you mostly on the base? How much longer are you there for?

Last thing: Is there anything you need that we can send you?

–lang

James responded…

Lang,

Hopefully the computer doesn’t miss too many words. This thing is horrible! Plus I have a time limit so I will be quick.

I was hoping Jennings would have had a crazy good year. Blake’s seems like old KMart with basketball IQ and tons more skill. The Spurs record is making me nervous.

Here? Not much you can say. The country is amazing, the mountains are breathtaking. It’s just hard to look past a lot of things.

Time is going by fast. I should be out of here next July, so it’s not too bad. Unless plans change (which happens almost every day in the military). I can’t take any chance on violating opsec (operation security), so I won’t say anything about anything LOL, sorry.

My schedule is good. It started out with a lot of 16-hour days with not a lot of sleep, but we have calmed down. Starting Christmas day I start working 12 hour days basically. So it’s good, it helps time go by and when you’re at work you don’t lose situational awareness. It’s the one place where being at work is actually good. (Other than working at SLAM, but unfortunately we all can’t be writers or editors!)

Lang, man, thanks for asking, but no! My Mother has me covered on anything I need, but thanks for asking. Plus, there are a few chickies that worry about me too LOL! Just keep doing your thing with SLAM, and enjoy your holidays. Anyways, I have 4 minutes left on this thing. I am trying to check my e-mail everyday now. I just wish SLAM would run on these computers better.

Peace out, Lang

James

PS: Sorry for the swearing.

For a lot of us, the holidays may be about eating a lot of food and watching a couple of dope games on TV that could establish some sort of pecking order atop the NBA, but more than that, I hope for all of you the holidays are about friends and family, not only those you’re able to visit with and hug, but also the friends and family who aren’t able to be with us. It took someone who’s going to spend his holidays 5,000 miles away from home to remind me of that. Thanks, James. Stay safe and happy holidays.

James is going to try and check this post a few days after it goes up, so if you want to drop him well wishes or anything, comment away.

And happy holidays to you, too, peoples.