Thursday, April 1st, 2010 at 9:00 am  |  124 responses

SLAM 138: On Sale Now!

The ATL Hawks and the OKC Thunder finally get covered!

by Lang Whitaker

I have now been working at SLAM magazine for nine years. The first issue of SLAM that I worked on featured Tracy McGrady on the cover. If that doesn’t make you realize it was a long time ago, consider that it was McGrady on the cover in his first photo shoot wearing an Orlando Magic uniform. Since then I’ve performed various jobs here and there, written almost two dozen cover stories, about 100 features and produced more words for SLAMonline than I can possibly even begin to count. Despite having done pretty much all there is to do with SLAM, there always seems to be something that hasn’t been done.

And so today, hell freezes over. This is not an April Fools Day joke. The Atlanta Hawks are on the cover of SLAM magazine.

A few months ago, when the Atlanta Hawks were off to their best start in over a decade, there was a 48 hour period when I got calls from three different people pitching the Hawks as a possible SLAM cover. I told all three of those people the same things:

1) Yes the Hawks are playing well, but let’s see if they can keep this up.

2) Believe me, you don’t have to pitch me to put the Hawks on a SLAM cover. You’ve got the biggest possible Hawks advocate already here at SLAM, working from the inside. If anyone here needs to be reminded that the Hawks could be a viable cover, it’s not me.

But I can understand why people may not trust me, may not believe me when I say that we here at SLAM do realize that the Hawks exist. This is because in the entire 16 year history of SLAM magazine, we have never, ever, never ever ever, not even once, had an Atlanta Hawk on the cover.

hawksguysIt hasn’t been for a lack of trying, at least on my part. Every story meeting, I’m the one saying, “Well, we could do something on the Hawks…” Problem is the Hawks haven’t been very good. Since moving to Atlanta from St. Louis in 1968, the Atlanta Hawks have not won an NBA championship. In fact, since moving to the Eastern Conference in 1970, the Hawks haven’t even made it to the Conference Finals. Between 1977 and 1999, the Hawks qualified for the Playoffs 18 times, and lost in either the first or second round all 18 times they made the Playoffs. And between 2000 and 2007, the Hawks didn’t even make the Playoffs.

But now the Hawks are balling. They may not be at that level with Cleveland or L.A., but the Hawks are currently one win away from their first 50 win season in over a decade. And as we were brainstorming who should be on the cover of this issue set to drop when the Playoffs start, our publisher actually came up with the idea for us to feature younger teams that could make some noise.

Picking Oklahoma City from the West was a no-brainer. Sure they’re young and talented and all that, but what they’ve accomplished in just two years is incredible. Anyone remember that it was just a little over a year ago that they started out 1-12? I think everyone recognized they were a talented team, led by probably the most talented young player in the NBA, but now they’re not only a Playoff team out West, they’re three games out of first in their division and on pace to win 50. Our main man Nima Zarrabi spent time with the Thunder when they were out in Cali a couple of weeks ago, and he wrote a great story that captures not only how well the Thunder players all get along, but also just how well the franchise is positioned going forward.

As for the Hawks…well, you get one guess who got to write their first-ever SLAM cover story. Actually, the way it worked out, because of our timing and the Hawks’, we shot this cover in New York City. The Hawks flew into NYC on a Sunday afternoon, the day of the Oscars. I was waiting for them at their hotel near Lincoln Center, and they all trudged off the bus and went upstairs to their rooms. A few minutes later Hawks PR director Arthur Triche came back down, and then Al Horford, then Josh Smith, then Joe Johnson. The original plan was that we’d take cabs down to the photo studio that photog Atiba Jefferson had rented on the Lower East Side, but the Hawks’ charter bus waited for us to give us a ride, so the five of us ended up taking a huge bus all by ourselves down to the studio. We got into the studio, Atiba started snapping, and AT and I played caterers by grabbing a couple of pizzas and sodas from a nearby pizzeria and bringing them back for everyone to chow on.

Since turning pro, Joe, Josh and Al all said they’ve never been on a magazine cover, so they were up for the shoot, and we all just kinda hung out for a few hours down there. I’ve spent a lot of time with all three of those guys over the years — including this year — but this was a chance to see them in a totally different setting, just chatting, telling stories, spending a lot of time laughing uproariously. I knew all these guys got along just fine, but it wasn’t until that night at the photo studio that I was convinced that these guys all honestly like each other.

Even though I love the Hawks, I know most NBA fans have at best politely endured them over the years. Meanwhile, I’ve voraciously inhaled everything there is to know about the franchise, so I wrote what’s basically an educational piece, with 21 (word to Dominique) things you need to know about the Hawks to truly understand this team should you want to board the bandwagon. From Woody’s eyebrows to Iso-Joe to Lon Kruger’s season ticket scheme to the 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals, I summed up the history and the present of the Hawks. The only three people I really quote in the story are the three people who’ve been around the organization the longest: Dominique, Arthur, and Hawks radio voice Steve Holman, who’s in his 25th season with the team. Like me, they’ve seen it all, been through the bad times, and it’s because of those bad times that this current team is so special.

I don’t know how the Playoffs are going to play out, but I do know the Hawks, for the first time in forever, stand a fighting chance against pretty much anyone. And for a Hawks fan like myself, that’s all I can ask for.

Here’s both covers, the Thunder and the Hawks. These should be on newsstands around the world in the next week.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to convince myself this isn’t an April Fools Day joke.

ATL, shawty…

SLAM 138

SLAM 138

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  • Ken

    I can’t believe SLAM went 138 issues without Hawks on the cover. That’s a crazy streak. Well deserved guys.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    If this cover is any indication, the Hawks will be on the receiving end of the SLAM cover jinx that Kentucky started last week, although, they whipped the Lakers pretty good last night. Also, Lang needs to be called out for his silly words at the beginning of the season that Kobe was going to have “his greatest season ever”. Not sure what you were thinking then but……yeah. This cover has an old-school SLAM feel, which is a welcome change.

  • http://nicekicks.com MELOMelo


  • Kendrick is God

    do subscribers get both?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    The cover photo’s aren’t showing up on this page.

  • http://coco-vents.blogspot.com Co Co


  • http://slamonline.com Brad Long

    Yeah, I mean all Kobe has done this year is hit more game winners than most HOFers do in their entire careers. I have to agree with E on one thing though. This cover is Old School Slam all the way. It has been a long time coming. Congrats, Lang.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    He should have hit one last night, B. Go away now.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    My man Myung is also going to hate that the Hawks are in their red uniforms for their first cover shoot, or “The Uniforms of Death”, something like that, that he likes to call them!

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/farmer-jones/ Ryan Jones

    They look great. And I’ll wear a Braves hat every day for the next year if the Hawks get that ring they’re after.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    I wasn’t crazy about the red unis, either, because they are historically bad luck. But the guys wanted to wear the red unis, so I wrote in the story about how the red unis are bad luck and how hopefully we’re gonna reverse-SLAM-cover-curse them.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    Also, Thunder fans, Nima’s going to do a separate post early next week with all the details from his time with the Thunder.

  • http://deleted Maurice Bobb

    Dope covers. The Thunder have def surprised me this year. I knew Durant was a beast but Westbrook really stepped it up. They def knew what they were doing when they picked him so early in the draft that year. As for the Hawks, Horford is a monster and I’ve always been a fan of Smoove, I was just waiting for him to “get it” and I think he finally has. Joe is Joe. He’s a silent killer and smooth like butter. I know Lang is happy like he struck the lotto and since he’s the realest Hawk fan I know, all I can say is: ATL, shawty…

  • whitey

    mann i hope that i get the Thunder one im picking them to winn it all biggest upset in finals history

  • Rob

    The Hawks are no joke…

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/farmer-jones/ Ryan Jones

    Also sort of note worthy here: The relative lack of ink on six sets of bare arms. Pretty unique for a Slam front.

  • WolfNast

    Wow thanks so much for that Thunder cover. Made my day.

    This better not be some sick April’s fools joke either.

  • don

    wahoo! got me some JOSH word to read! i am getting this mag!

  • http://coco-vents.blogspot.com Co Co

    I love the Breast Cancer Awareness bracelet KD is wearing. I assume that’s what it is. I wear one too.

  • Dirtybird

    It feels like the Hawks were bad ever since Slam was around, but did have good seasons around 94-98, but Deke and Steve Smith wasn’t flashy enough. It may snow in GA.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    Here’s a legit question….is Joe Johnson a lock to come back to the Hawks with a new deal or could he be enticed to leave? He’s not going to be as high-profile as Lebron, Wade, Bosh this summer but to the right squad, he could be a difference maker.

  • http://www.twitter.com/NotebookNick NotebookNick

    Amazing covers, but I’m with everyone else. My first thought was “How could Lang let this happen right before the playoffs?!!?” Please don’t let the jinx be proven true. I love both of these teams.

  • vaL

    finals preview?


  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Love it. Thanks, Lang.

  • arthur

    Great covers, kinda like the Phoenix/Detroit split from back in the day. Both teams deserve them too

  • http://slamonline.com Matt Lawyue

    Both covers look sick. The white OKC jersey’s with the orange SLAM in the background is so nice. Tell me that won’t stand out on the news rack. You can’t.

  • Monstarzz

    Big fan of the OKC one. Hawks one is TBD if it’s undeserved.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/ niQ

    Finally a Hawks cover. Now I wonder whether JJ will be gone next season…

  • http://slamonline.com Adam Fleischer

    The Thunder are seriously, seriously good.

  • http://twitter.com/NDiiBaBii NDiiBaBii

    I’m sooo excited for this Hawks cover, wow! I don’t care what anyone says we are after the ring. I’ve been a season ticket holder for over 10 yrs. I love it!

  • robert stewart

    As much as I like SLAM and this Magazine this cover just doesn’t seem right without Jamal Crawford. He should be 6th Man of the year and has hit crucial shots all year. I love yall SLAM but I need an explanation.

  • http://www.another48minutes.com Gerard Himself

    awesome covers, just awesome. Covers like this is what SLAM is all about. Can’t even explain what I mean, but for me, it feels that way. *tips hat*

  • Myung

    Absolutely love it (except like eboy mentioned… I’m not a fan of the red uniforms, or rather, the effect they seem to have on the team’s performance this season).

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Gerard, I said the same thing when I saw the covers for the first time. Classic.

  • Jer Boi

    what cover do subscribers get? please tell me ATL.

  • A.

    Covers aren’t showing up for me.

  • Ray

    I have not had a smile on my face this goofy in a long long time The Hawks are finally getting some respect and it’s a perfect day here in the A

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky

    Happy that Lang’s squad finally got a cover. Still hoping my team can end the year with a surprise one.

  • logues

    o my god awesome! i love covers with multiple players on them

  • axhfan

    Bad Ass. I need to get the Hawks cover as a poster.

  • http://astrokidz.tumblr.com T.J.


  • http://coco-vents.blogspot.com Co Co

    I really wish Jamal could have been on the cover too.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    @A. — The covers should be showing up for you now.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com TADOne

    I’ll be checking in every few hours for Lang to drop the “APRIL FOOLS, SUCKERS!!!”

  • DPhenomenal1

    That’s Triple Threat in full effect on the Hawks’ Slam cover (Joe, Josh, and Al). The red jersey has the ATL on it. “ATL shawty”. LOL! I love the red jersey and it can be no more bad luck than the blue one. Think about it. Just saying.

    I can’t wait for my mag to come through.

  • DPhenomenal1

    No April Fools please. I’m gonna go check the stands just to see when I get off work.

  • TyMo

    Thank you, SLAM. Thank you thank you thank you.

  • underdog

    All I can say is: at last. Well deserved covers!

  • http://www.boogiewilliams.com Boing Dynasty

    Dope covers, but “Durant & Co” looks espcially weak next to a money title like “Flight Club”

  • ab_40

    no school like the old school way to go back to your roots slam

  • http://www.peachtreehoops.com THHB

    Yes. Yes. Yes. True relevance!

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    I hear you, Boing. Durant’s name needed to be in the headline…

  • A.

    @Ryne: Good job. I definitely was missing out. No more. Great job on the covers. They’re dope. Also, Al Horford’s eyes are burning into my soul.

  • http://www.mauricegarland.com Maurice Garland

    YES! This is perfect timing, especially after last night. I can’t lie though, after I saw Durant tweet the Thunder cover I was ready to come over here and leave an “encouraging” comment as to why my Hawks deserved the cover…and low and behold, they were here waiting on me. Loving this man…can’t wait to cop several copies of this issue.

  • http://www.boogiewilliams.com Boing Dynasty

    Is Joe wearing Icons in the 2nd pic?

  • http://www.slamonline.com DeMarco Williams

    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!!! I always dreamed of this day. Just thought I’d be a grandfather before it actually happened. Kudos to Ben, Susan and Lang (I see ya, homie!) for giving the Birds their props. The cover looks great… So, Lang, this means I get the next one, right?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Nima Zarrabi

    Looking forward to reading your piece, Lang. Good work all around. The covers turned out lovely. Big Up to Ben, Susan and all the comrades @ the Dome.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Subscribers will get Thunder cover, which Nima will be writing more about Monday. Both covers will be available at all newsstands, however, and also via our backissues site:

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    De, you were gonna get this one since Lang just did that on-the-road-with-the-Hawks feature, and Lang agreed you’d do a great job, but he said something to the effect of “the Hawks are FINALLY getting on the cover and I’m not writing it? GTFO.”

  • sp

    Couldn’t the Hawks get a better photo than that? What are they so mad about?

  • Logues

    i usually dont care to buy second cover if there is one, the one i get in the mail is good enough for me, but i need that hawks cover, that is just too raw. be honest SLAM, did y’all do it on purpose so we would all have to go buy the hawks one too? haha

  • DPhenomenal1

    What the heck. I’m a subscriber and I want the Hawks one. No biggie, I’ll just go get it off the newsstand.

  • http://Www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    When is the Wolves cover coming?…

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    @Myles: When is Ricky suiting up for you guys?

  • http://Www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    Um….*cries uncontrollably*.

  • http://Www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    Nah, it should be another year before he gets out of that contract. Hopefully no one burns down the Target Center before then.

  • Pic

    im mad james harden didnt make the cover

  • James

    I hope they send me the Hawks cover

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Myles, you guys also had a nice run of dope KG covers…

  • http://Www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    I hear you Ben, but it’s not exactly the same. Whenever Jordan, iverson or Kobe are on the cover, they’re repping themselves, not their team, you know? The Nets, Thunder & Hawks covers are team covers.

  • guytoofly

    great covers, but i am still waiting on one for brandon “the natural” roy

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com BETCATS

    dope cover guys, you know the Thunder are my #2 squad so i am gonna have to search all over the east coast for that durant/westbrook/green cover. But i am even more excited seeing their is something (article?!) about Stephen Jackson in here. Its about damm time you gave my boys something Ben!

  • franco

    Congrats Lang. For real I bet this was probably one of your fav. articles to ever write just cause this is your squad. Glad to see the Hawks back in the mix and back on a Slam cover. Can’t wait to get the mag.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Pardeep

    ATL cover is sick

  • http://realcavsfans.com Anton

    Hawks are for real. Good enough to stretch a series with the Cavs all the way to 5 games.

  • scompson

    slam needs to get the funding to go back to 140 pages an issued instead of 85. just sayin. the magazine is the size of an Us Weekley.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com DP

    the thunder are the fuggin sh#t man. really they are the most exciting tandem to watch in the league today in my opinion.

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    westbrook is better than rondo, play with yourself, or whatever that one guy used to say

  • http://www.another48minutes.com Gerard Himself

    @Pic: for a moment I thought you gave James Harden the nickname “Mad” James Harden, and it didn’t even feel weird to me. Ever since I saw that bugged eyes pic, I can’t get it out of my mind. (was also printed in SLAM some time ago, to cap the pic)

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Hawks cover is awesome.
    Thunder not so much, but I’d be happy to own either.
    Joe Johnson looks jacked in the non-cover pic.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    Hope you guys saw what Zaza Pachulia sent me tonight on Twitter:
    I don’t know what’s better, that someone made this, or that Zaza himself actually sent it to me.

  • franco

    Z is a serious trip. lol.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    Zaza is the best.

  • James

    I’m definitely gonna get the Thunder cover, KD35 is so smooth, love both covers though.

  • Myung

    LOL. Lang, PLEASE make that one with Zaza the new SLAM cover.

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com Michael NZ

    Gonna pick up the Thunder cover. Looks like a terrific issue as usual.

  • Jon

    Finally something that dosen’t involve Kobe. I understand you guys need to sell magazines and stuff but this is a fine example how you can do so without the Lakers on the cover. Amazing.

    I’ve just relocated to Hong Kong for work and it is likely that they’ll only have 1 of 2 covers. Anyone knows where I can get the Thunder one too?

  • Fat Lever

    Lang, I feel like the ATL cover needed a “Why So Serious?” Joker tag line. Those guys are taking mean-mugging to the next level.

  • http://brimartin13@gmail.com Brion

    The Thunder cover would look cooler if they wore their green and gold jerseys that say SONICS. (thats right still not over it).

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com/ Moose


  • TheKid2Kill

    I love the Atlanta cover…….Imma buy it as soon as possible.

    Thank you slam ya did a great job!

  • Hayden

    when are the Suns getting a cover?

  • http://facebook.com/itsarvin Blah

    You can tell that the Hawks work real hard. Look at Horford, he’s ’bout the same height as the shooting guard of the team, Josh Smith too…
    Talented team. Crawford should be there too though, they won’t win w/o him, just saying.

  • http://slamonline BossTerry

    Nice switch-up to the Kobe.Bron.KG.Wade.Dwight rotation.. I like the red jerseys.. Bobcats and Blazers are about due for some love. Maybe next month..

  • http://philaflava.blogspot.com Teddy-the-Bear

    F*cking ACE covers. Good work, SLAM!

  • http://philaflava.blogspot.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Westbrook looks IDENTICAL to Brodie Brodus of “The Wire.” LOL that’s his twin right there!

  • CMoney$

    Dang I’m so pumped I gotta get my boy KD on the cover!!

  • CMoney$

    Oh but the one thing is i really like the “Flight Club” for the Hawks but there wasn’t anything better than “Durant & Co.” for the Thunder? I love y’all at SLAM but c’mon man lol..

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariqُُ

    Didn’t someone burn down the Target Center after the healthcare bill passed?

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariqُُ

    Speaking of the “Target” Center, I tried to explain to Wifey the concept of naming stadiums in the US. You know, how sponsors pay to name arenas after them, like “FedEx” Field, “Staples” Center, etc. She thought it was very strange. I just wish Kool-Aid pony up some cash and pay someone. “Welcome to Kool-Aid Arena”.

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    LMFAO at the Zaza cover! Aahahahahaha you should use it!

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Also, no love for Jamal Crawford?! He’s the X-Factor putting the Hawks over the top.

  • Pingback: Hawks on the Cover of SLAM Magazine | Soaring Down South | An Atlanta Hawks blog

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  • Lz – Cphfinest3

    Good job SLAM. Look at the positive feedback you guys are getting, take that and please resist going back to only having Kobe, LeBron, Dwight etc. on the cover in the future. These covers are the essence of SLAM; bringing the realest stuff happening in BBall-world to the fans. Go back to the usual suspects and continue on the decline towards the level where Hoops magazine reside. This is real, this is SLAM. Bravo!

    Lz – loyal reader since the first Shawn Kemp issue.

  • AI best balla of the 2000s

    y cant the subscribers get the hawks one i mean fer real man u just did that article on jeff green and then that one wit kd on the cover…yall got no love for ur loyal readers

  • Pingback: KD on the Cover of SLAM Magazine for the Second Time this Season

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Zaza FTW!

  • Pingback: SLAM ONLINE | » Hot Topics

  • Ronald

    hmm…does no one find it weird that Horford (C), Smith (PF) and JJ (SG) are basically the same height? (with about 1-2 inches difference between them)

  • http://www.Slamonline.com jfree

    i love it… finally the Hawks getting some credit!!!

  • str8 from samoa

    crawford should be on this!!!!

  • big_ticket

    hey slam,till now my ish was kinda lost??
    it was almost 2months when my couzin subscribed me to you,need some help


  • http://www.layupmag.com Chelsea

    I live in Atlanta and can’t even find the cover with the Hawks on it. Only one I see is the one with the Thunder.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    @Chelsea: I think Hawks PR man bought em all! can always order from our back-issues page: http://www.primediabackissues.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=PB&Category_Code=SLAM

  • mikedob

    I wish J-Creezy would have made the cover, but you can’t take any of those three off of it. Nobody wants to see the Hawks in the playoffs with two of the games best offensive players….

  • ATLfan

    I’m in Atlanta too…can’t find the mag with the Hawks on the cover either. Saw 3 copies of the OKC.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Seems like demand has been pretty heavy in ATL. If you really can’t find it, like I said earlier, you can order it here: http://www.primediabackissues.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=PB&Category_Code=SLAM
    (scroll down to bottom for current issue)

  • SeanJaye88

    There are no Hawks covers in Atlanta. Whats up wit dat. I don’t do the whole ordering over the internet Stuff.

  • ai come back

    y is this labeled as playoff issue

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