Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010 at 11:55 am  |  64 responses

Links: Happy Holidays

Home is where the SLAM is…

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.


So I wrote James back…


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?


James responded…


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


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.

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  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    This was GREAT! Keeps things in perspective. Thanks for running this, Lang and James, keep your head up! What you’re doing over there is way more significant than what any of us are doing over here.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Moose

    James! Great to get some news from you, glad to hear that everything is going fine. Thanks for the shout-out, too–the SLAM boards aren’t the same without you, man. Good luck to your Lakers on Xmas, I can’t believe that I’ll be rooting for Kobe and Co, but Miami is now at the top of my hit list (until the Finals, of course. Presumptuous? Maybe…). Again, great to hear it’s all going well and you’re safe and all of that–Happy Holidays to you.

  • Bruno

    Great post Lang and I guess we all are happy to know James is doing fine and as you said he remind me also why christmas and the holidays are all about, and that means family and friend … happy holidays to james and to you too Lang

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    My man! James, if you get a moment to read these comments, I pray for your safe return home and wish you a Merry Christmas. Yes, it’s not the same having your screename floating around here every day, but to be honest, James the Man is much cooler than his alter ego. Respect, love and God speed, kid. We’re all thinking about you and thanking you. I’ll be thinking about you as the Heat come into your boys arena on Christmas. I hope we take it easy on your boys! LOL….. for real though, stay steady and more important, stay well.

  • matt the jazz fan

    you can have any kind of opinion on foreign policy and the usefulness or morality of nato’s operations in the middle east.
    but that takes nothing away from the best wishes to james, and to all (in the holiday spirit).

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Man, if you read this James, be safe homie, be safe. Get back home to your family.
    And I will say that hearing from did remind me to be grateful of the things I often take for granted. Thanks for the reminder.


    James The Balla, I just want to say thanks to you and all the men and women in the military who make civilized life possible for the rest of us. Get some safe man, Go Lakers!

  • Neon

    I would just like to add that besides food, hoops, and family, Christmas is also about Christ. With that said, Merry Christmas Slam Fam!

  • http://www.need4sheed.com Tarzan Cooper

    Stay frosty in the sandbox james.

  • RyandC

    Sir Im Filipino so we dont have the same team when it comes to the armed forces but I do have mad respect for anybody that serves their country by putting their life on the line. Stay safe and God bless you. I will say though that I grew up in SoCal so Ill cheer doubly hard with you in mind when I watch our guys go at it on Xmas Day (26th here). =)

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    we may all have disagreements regarding to the people at the top who make decisions for this country, but i think it’s safe to say that the whole country is behind our troops. be safe big guy.

  • arthur

    Stay safe James!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    I’d also like to give James props on the gangsta mustache.

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

    Larry Bird ‘stache in full effect, b safe homie.

  • Overtime

    @Lang, best post on Slamonline in a while. Great to see you interacting with ur readers as equals, theres a reason ur top dog.
    @James, keep well man, thoughts are with u, I will try and pick up the slack cheering on our Lakers wise.
    (Biggest things for you to know: Shannon Brown is shooting 45% from downtown, and Lamar is on double-digit boards)

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

    Be well, James. And thanks.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Great stuff.

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

    This was awesome.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky


  • http://SLAMonline.com GotHandles?

    word. shout out to James the Balla. We all appreciate what you’re doing out there. Be safe and get home soon.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Stay safe man. Watch your six!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Todd Spehr

    Good stuff, James. Wishing you all the best mate.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Clyde

    Way cool, stay safe bud. Here’s to rocking a Whiskey Tango moustache. :P

  • http://slamonline.com Chris O’Leary

    Glad to hear you’re doing well out there, James. Stay safe and I hope that stache was a Movember thing.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Hey James. We never met, probably only posted directly to each other once or twice but know this. Your are a rolemodel.

  • Michael

    good to hear from you, take care over there.

  • http://twitter.com/smileyoufckers Bryan

    Great to hear from you James. Stay safe so you can come back here and start more trouble. I’d like to say I’d hold down the Laker defense fort but my Knicks have finally given me something to cheer about. Merry Christmas and Best wishes.

  • http://dietermoeyaert@hotmail.com Mollywood

    as i read in chris o’leary’s q&a with ron artest the other day, when he quoted that veteran media member at the oilers game: ’90% of what we do here is BS. it’s the other 10% that really matters.’ that’s exactly what the links are like, too: not pure basketball, but lang touches on things outside of basketball that really matter. great stuff! @james: take care!

  • http://slamonline.com/ Adam Figman

    Yup, awesome stuff. Stay safe, James.

  • http://hoopistani.blogspot.com hoopistani

    amazing. this is the most i’ve enjoyed the links since the OLD links. take care james

  • http://www.twitter.com/HurstySYD Hursty

    Stay safe James, said a prayer for you today. Wishing you the best possible over there.
    Appreciate what you’re doing immensely.
    God bless.

  • http://www.slamonline.com James the Balla

    Hey everyone!

    I stole my buddies computer for 20 minutes, it`s a french computer so there will be a lot of these é and these É, but hopefully it still makes sense.

    Lang sent me an e-mail and said it was posted which is DOPE lol. I was able to get on the phone this morning and tell my boys back home!

    The moustache … well I don`t have an excuse for that, other than my father has a handle bar and I am trying to grow one too. A lot of the guys here do it as well. Considering you have to shave everyday, and my next off day is not until April.17th, taking a break from shaving one area is awesome! Oh, and Larry didn`t have anything to do with it, although it looks to be within the same shape as his. His seemed to be lacking fullness as well!

    Thanks everyone for the love. But without Lang this wouldn`t even be happening. One of the cooler things that has happened in my life!

    I won`t get to post on here again, but I will try and check on Christmas to read all the comments.

    I will hit Lang up with another e-mail come MarchéApril before I head home for two weeks vacation.

    Again, thanks everyone. Enjoy the holidays and talk to ya`ll soon. The messages made my holidays!! Seriously.

    Stay safe please!

  • http://slamonline.com AlbertBarr

    James: Thank you for sharing with us. I cant even begin to imagine what you do over there so we can all peck away at our keyboards endlessly. I am in a word, awed. I would love to see those mountains. They must be incredible. Glad you have the clarity to find some moments of joy even when it is hard to “look past” the situation in front of you. Stay safe, stay classy, Merry Christmas. The ‘stache is tops.

  • http://simonlawy888.blogspot.com Simon Lawy

    Thank you James !!!

  • Fat Lever

    James, just saying thanks isn’t enough for what you do, but I’m going to say it anyway. Thank you! All of our servicemen and women have my utmost respect and we are all indebted to you guys. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay sharp(we’ll need the wit back on the comment boards). Special thanks to Lang for helping put things in perspective with this post. Giving people like James a platform to express themselves, with everything that’s going on, is very important. Happy holidays to everyone.

  • http://Slamonline.com Rocksinmypants

    Deployment stache. Nice. Stay safe

  • http://www.twitter.com/TheDiesel Anton

    Hey James! I don’t want to be a downer, but I think the people updating you were sugar-coating the state of the Lakers. The truth is, Kobe’s been coming off the bench for the last two months and is dedicated to taking twice as many shots as minutes played.
    Anyway Merry Christmas and stay safe!

  • http://www.fiba.com Darksaber

    Anton, u really wanna play that game with a guy bearing a ‘stache like that in Afghanistan? See that blast wall behind him, looks like it has shrapnel damage in it. James the B’s coming for you ;-)

  • http://www.fiba.com Darksaber

    Very nice Links, Lango. Inspirational even.
    Keep your helmet down, James. Can’t wait to see which new levels of Laker love u develop after having been away from it all for so long.

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  • http://google c_cantrell

    good luck over there james! hope you have a merry christmas bro! good to hear from ya again.. and also nice stache bud

  • G. Moore

    James: Merry Christmas, man. I hope you get home soon so you can see my Pistons rebuild and take it to your Lakers in the Finals once again. … Be safe over there, brother. We appreciate you.

  • Andrew

    What a great post!
    Stay safe, James.

  • Hammer

    No doubt it puts everything n perspective. Gr8,gr8 piece. Nice 2 hear from james. Hope we hear from him real soon. Also,thanx 2 james 4 doin what me and a lot of us wouldn’t do. It is very much appreciated. May u b safe and take care. We would all like 2 have u back home so u can b w/ur fam. Peace james

  • http://slamonline.com tealish

    thanks from a fellow Canadian; all the best

  • lockon

    great read!

  • http://Philosophervision@blogspot.com The Philosopher

    A man’s man.

  • http://www.google.com/news BETCATS

    I just hopped on to email some people and saw this. Merry Christmas James (and all the rest of you people too). Even though you are Canadian and a Laker fan, I will see past your shortcomings to celebrate Jesus’s birthday. I extend seasonal salutations to all the slamonline fam.

  • http://www.ebay.com Tariq

    Thank you, American troops, for defending our freedoms and liberties and providing justice, happiness, joy, justice, freedom and liberty, and for preserving our values, morals, freedoms, liberties, truths, liberties and freedoms :)

  • Vinnamese

    A refreshing read…

  • http://aspov.blogspot.com Cheryl

    JAMES!! Just read this one on Xmas morning. Thanks for putting this time of year in perspective, dude. You’re so right, hug who you can, and appreciate what’s real in your life. Get home safe, James. Maybe I’ll cheer once or twice for a Kobe or DFish made shot, but you know who I’ll be for when the clock is running down. And btw, you got another “chickie” that hopes you come back safe. :)

  • http://aspov.blogspot.com Cheryl

    And, Lang, we REALLY need to hook up a SlamFam get together up there in NYC. Maybe when James gets back in July? I’m willing to help organize it. I’m being serious. You got my digits, let’s make this happen.

  • http://Www.lacuevacrosscountry.com Slick Nick Da Ruler

    James, stay safe, much respect to you. Thanks to the entire SLAM community for amazing work & a great way to spend part of my day.

  • http://Philosophervision@blogspot.com The Philosopher

    Hey james, on another note, one of my women thinks you are attractive. I’m jealous.
    It HAS to be the “stache.”

  • http://www.ebay.com Tariq

    “one of my women” sounds Flyntesque.

  • hoodsnake

    One of my women reminds me of Hustle and Flow…Merry Christmas Slam fam and all of the best for 2011

  • http://www.google.com/news BETCATS

    It might be global warming or it might be the Christmas Spirit but we got a lot of snow here last night. I’m enjoying it and I hope everybody had a merry Christmas; I got 2 pairs of Reebok Pumps and I have no idea where my mom got them.

  • http://twitter.com/smileyoufckers Bryan

    Cheryl that is a fantastic idea! I’ve always wanted to hang with the slam dudes whenever I’m up in ny.

  • http://slamonline.com rudy

    Sorry to say I came a little late to the SLAMonline party and missed out on your comments, but thank you for serving our country and keeping us safe at home.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Moose

    Cheryl, that is the best idea I’ve heard in awhile.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    I’d make the trip.

  • http://www.google.com/news BETCATS

    I would not be a part of any meetup. But have fun in NYC people I know from the internet!

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Moose

    I probably wouldn’t be able to make the trip (you guys know why).

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

    Happy New Year and all that stuff James. Cool read, Keep safe ok.