by Lang Whitaker | @langwhitaker

It was just over two years ago when I showed up here on SLAMonline to announce that I wasn’t going to be writing on SLAMonline as often as I used to.

And today I’m here to tell you I’m not going to be here at all, not anymore. But I’ll get to that in a second.

When I was in college and trying to figure out how to make a career at this writing stuff, I would go to the grocery store late at night and spend hours reading magazines on the newsstand. It was late enough that there weren’t other people there to bother me, other than the angry dudes re-stocking the shelves. I was so broke that I couldn’t actually buy the magazines, so I’d leaf through them carefully and put them back uncreased. One night I picked up this issue of SLAM, and read Scoop Jackson’s story on Webber, then read everything else in the issue, and my mind was just kind of blown. I knew that this was a magazine I wanted to be part of, by hook or by crook, whatever it took.

And now, all these years later, it happened. I wrote a few pieces for SLAM, and then SLAM hired me full-time, and then I wrote so many words for the magazine and the website over the last 15 years that I have totally lost track of my production. I’ve been involved with SLAM since Issue 37, over 130 issues. I’ve traveled on SLAM’s nickel from Hawaii to Barcelona, and I’ve seen 26 of the NBA’s 30 teams play in their home arenas. I’ve played HORSE with LeBron, driven around Coney Island with Starbury, sat in traffic on the Vegas strip with CP3, talked with Michael Jordan. And all of that is just barely scratching the surface of what a crazy experience this ride has been.

But BY FAR, my favorite part of the ride with SLAM has been all of you. I started writing The Links every day in the summer of 2001, and immediately a community developed. I would write each day, and you guys would flood me with emails. Then some genius invented these things called “comments sections,” and we could all talk in real time. Hours were spent discussing important hot NBA topics, from Kidd vs Marbury to the glory of Ben Handlogten to man versus beast. I talked with you guys on 9/11. We talked when I got engaged to my wife and after I got married. You guys helped me name my dog, Starbury. (She says hello, by the way.) We talked whenever we experienced death and birth and joy and sadness.

And then two years ago, I stepped away because I needed to try something else. I was burned out, and as I wrote at the time, I wanted some free time and some freedom to try other things. In the time since, I’ve been able to do a lot of those things, from co-founding a website to writing a lot for my favorite general interest magazine, GQ, to writing for the freaking New York Times. I’ve been able to write about everything from football to TV to food to fashion. I’ve also continued writing a feature for each issue of SLAM, as well as appearing on shows on NBA TV and co-hosting the Hang Time Podcast for NBA.com. Oh, and I haven’t written about this here, but my wife and I had a son. He’s just over four months old now, and he is incredible. Hopefully he won’t mind that I named him Dominique Starbury Whitaker.

But as much fun as all the random stuff I’ve done the last few years has been, for me it will always be about the NBA. I didn’t choose the NBA, the NBA chose me. Two weeks ago I was in Atlanta and on the set at NBA TV for an episode of “The Jump.” We had a segment about the new Hall of Fame enshrinees, and as part of that topic we had a video piece on Gary Payton. We were sitting there on set watching this as it aired, as highlight after highlight played, and there was a brief clip of GP ripping the ball from an opponent, knocking that opponent to the ground, and running to the other end for a dunk. As we all chuckled at this play, one of the production people on set wondered aloud, “Who was that he knocked over?” And within about .00001 milliseconds, I blurted out, “Robert Pack.”

This is just the way my brain works: I saw a Denver jersey, I saw a number 14, I saw a hightop fade, I knew it had to be during the ‘90s because Gary Payton was involved, and so without any real complex thought, my brain just spat out the correct answer: Robert Pack. The NBA is embedded so deep in my mind that I can’t forget this stuff if I wanted to.

And so I’m getting back to basketball, and here’s the news: Starting Monday, I will be writing about the NBA full-time for NBA Digital. NBA Digital is part of Turner Sports, and includes stuff like NBA TV, NBA.com, NBA Mobile, and…I don’t know, a bunch of other stuff. Most relevantly, I will be taking over the All Ball Blog on NBA.com. I’ll still be involved with all the other stuff I do there, from “The Jump” on NBA TV to the Hang Time Podcast with my guys Sekou Smith and Rick Fox, as well as doing chats on TNT Overtime during the TNT games. I’ve been working with Turner in a part-time capacity the last few years, and have had nothing but great experiences. So when this opportunity came about, I couldn’t say no. I’ll still be based here in NYC, and I’m excited to make this move, to turn my attention to this blog and have some fun with it. Throw me a bookmark or add me to your RSS reader or whatever, and stop by for a visit.

All that said, you haven’t seen the very last of me in SLAM, because I’ve finished a few pieces that will appear in the next issue of the magazine. And who knows, maybe I’ll surface for SLAM’s 300th issue to write a think piece on the legacy of Chad Ford’s mock drafts.

On my way out the door, I do want to say thank you to everyone at SLAM and in the SLAM Dome. It was genuinely an honor to have worked with such an incredible group of people. I worked directly for three of the most talented editors-in-chief out there (Russ, Ryan and Ben). And then there was Susan and Melissa and Khalid and Sam and…well, I don’t want to list any more names because I will certainly forget someone, but there have been dozens of smart, talented people I’ve been fortunate enough to work alongside. And I probably should thank the common thread running through all the different people I’ve worked with: SLAM publisher Dennis Page, who is one of the most brilliant and hilarious people in publishing. (You remember how I’d occasionally start posts with, “What up, peoples?” That was straight from Dennis.)

In that post two years ago when I was going from full-time to part-time, I noted that I was no longer going to be in the center of the huddle, and that I was instead going to be one of the people on the outskirts. Well, now I’m going to be in the stands, watching intently, munching on popcorn and drinking an overpriced beverage. And I’ll be rooting for SLAM every chance I get.

Later…