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Friday, April 19th, 2013 at 12:00 pm  |  50 responses

Links: Movin’ Cool…

Fri-Day! Yes!

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…

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  • http://twitter.com/LYSHtsuji Alysha Tsuji

    super inspiring story! i want to thank you for the advice you wrote me in an email about 4 years ago! i’ve still carried it with me. i love your attitude and your passion. it’s been amazing seeing you go from SLAM and then GQ and on and on. keep going, lang! as you’re rooting for SLAM, we’re all rooting for you!

  • RayJr

    I loved the links! That’s what got me hooked to Slamonline! Lang, you will be missed!

  • http://twitter.com/HabeebaHusain Habeeba Husain

    Wishing you the best! :)

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ben Osborne

    *sheds a tear* *smiles happily* *loves lede about CWebb issue* *is impressed that you have a count of NBA arenas*

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Congratulations Lang that’s really great, you deserve it.

  • Cheryl

    Lang, you led me here to this site back in 2003, when the links were posted around 3pm during the week and had this funky grey background and (sometimes) red lettering. I LOVED to check in at 3 and get my BBall fix. Sometimes I dropped you and email to “pontificate” and on a couple of occasions you made my riff part of the Links. What a thrill! Through you and Sam and Khalid, and Ben, and Susan, et al, I’ve met “EBoy” (in person, FINALLY) TADOne, and CoCo–people I call my “cyber friends”. It’s been great fun. I will miss you around here, but I will following your work wherever it leads you. Because, you my friend, are really, really good at what you do!
    Peace, dude! :) (and I hope to one day hang out with you one of your trips to this crazy place. my number’s the same).

  • Pingback: Links: Movin’ Cool… | PhilaPhans – Sixers' Foul Line – 76ers (Blogs – Forums – Message Board)

  • Mikko

    Damn. You were the reason a dude from Finland(!) kept coming back here to read amazing stories about hoops. See ya, Lang!

  • http://twitter.com/alan__ryan Alan Ryan

    What she said.

  • Adam Figman

    +1 on all of this

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ben Osborne

    you guys are awesome

  • http://twitter.com/whitehoteboy CCT

    So many memories from the old days of SLAMOnline. Like Cheryl said, some of the most genuine people I’ve met over the last decade have been from my association with them on the SLAM pages. Lang was always the rock of the SLAM Universe. The Links were required reading…especially on a Fri-day….or when he’d hit into something that made us all laugh at it’s absurdity (Ping Ping comes to mind right away) or turned us on to some crazy time killing game.

    I’ve told Lang this several times…that in the aftermath of 9/11…his views on how things were in the city after it all went day should have been essential reading for ANYONE that wanted to know how New York began it’s recovery. It was brilliant, real and raw. Still my favorite work he ever complied.

    For years, this was a second on-line home and Lang was the inn keeper. I’ve moved away from being a full-time commenter like I used to be….and with Lang officially “in the stands”….I think I’ll stay there too.

    Thanks for all your years of entertainment, laugh’s and efforts that made SLAMOnline what it is today. Enjoy being a dad, brother….that’s the best adventure you’ll ever be on.

    Forever indebted and a life-long fan,

    Eboy

  • http://twitter.com/whitehoteboy CCT

    My on-line sister…..I love her.

  • susaningrid

    i remember when you were a baby freelancer and i had to email some dude
    in atlanta with a name i never heard of. i believe my exact quote was,
    “what the hell is a lang?” see you in the blue seats at the garden.

  • Chris

    All the best, Lang. It shows my age that I remember the very, very early days of The Links. Long live Max’s “Fri-day!”

  • Sparker

    I was no longer really a fan. I’d played a ton of basketball growing up, watched the NCAA and the NBA for years… but had kind of let it slip in my late 20s, doing other things. Here’s what I have to tell you, Lang: the Links brought me back into the fold, hooked me bad, and I’ve been checking the site… what?… for YEARS now… virtually every day. And the craziest part is this: it wasn’t really the basketball that got me. It was the humour, the mischievousness, the irreverence, the clandestine bits, the personal anecdotes, the travel mishaps, the sideshows, the nicknames, the video game/TV show/movie debates, the links to uncharted galaxies of the web, the sheer fun of the WRITING. And on top of all that, you took what’s ultimately a heavily packaged, conservative sports/entertainment product… and made it cool and worth giving a cr*p about. Thanks for all that. It was sincerely appreciated. So if David Stern is the one footing the bills at NBA Digital, I hope he’s paying you well. Because I seriously doubt I would become an NBA fan again without you and Slam. Scratch that. I know I wouldn’t have.

  • Stiff

    Dang, Lang! Congrats and good luck at Turner. It’s been a pleasure to read your stuff for as long as I can remember. Thank you.

  • LangWhitaker

    Thank you!

  • LangWhitaker

    thanks!

  • LangWhitaker

    haha, thanks Lady S.

  • LangWhitaker

    Thanks!

  • LangWhitaker

    thanks!

  • LangWhitaker

    Thanks, sir!

  • LangWhitaker

    What Ben said

  • LangWhitaker

    Yes!

  • LangWhitaker

    thanks!

  • LangWhitaker

    thank you!

  • LangWhitaker

    Appreciate it!

  • Andy

    It’s a sad day, I’ve been a SLAM fan since ish 2, and I used to look forward to my lunch hour to read the Links. All the best Lang and congrats on your new family member. Maybe it’s time to call time on my subscription..

  • MikeC. formerly Hoffa

    Much love and luck with your next page. SLAM, can we get a classic grey page day in honour of Lang?
    Lang, your work with SLAM mag and slamonline took me places. To be honest, I haven’t checked the mag for awhile (bills, mortgage, scotch, etc. keep eating my money), but I’ve been faithful on the site. I’ve enjoyed your work the most. You somehow manage to write with a fan’s love while remaining subjective.
    My personal favourite SLAM story goes back a decade. I’d just finished university and didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I decided to teach English overseas. I managed to land a job in Eastern Poland, teaching ESL to professionals who wanted to learn North American slang and sports terms so they could better converse with their American and Canadian counterparts. What better place to find slang and sports terms than SLAM magazine, right? So I had my mom mail me a bunch of my old SLAMs (overseas freight on that must have cost her a few coins. Love you moms!), and I had my students read them and share the new words they came across so I could explain the meaning. Good gravy holy moly did I start something nuts! These dudes were in love with basketball! Obsessed with MJ (Bulls version, not Wiz), and very interested in these young kids Lebron, Carmelo and Wade. This was Eastern Europe, so they all thought Darko was going to be the man, but hey, so did Chad Ford and he gets paid to know about these things. Anyway, these guys refused to leave the class until they’d pored over every word in every magazine and dissected every article and learned each slang term. I loved teaching these guys about hoops and they loved learning how to “after-hours speak” from me, due to my supplemental reading suggestions. At the end of my first year, one of my students was so happy with what he’d learned that he invited me to a family dinner at his home. Amazing food, but the aftermath is the golden meat of the story. He wanted to thank me even more (I guess his conversational English had put him in line for a promotion), so he brought out a jug (not a bottle) of home made vodka. I got so messed up that I have no recollection of what happened after dinner. I don’t remember walking back to my apartment. I woke up the next day to my landlord pounding on my door (and my head pounding from the bathtub vodka) with a ticket in his hand. Apparently I’d been picked up by the police because I was peeing in the street and shouting “I’m peeing on cobblestones”. I didn’t go to Eastern European prison because I had my ESL teaching ID with me, so the police just took me home and threw me into the lobby of my building and left my fine with the landlord. Long story short, SLAM is the reason several Polish men received promotions, and I got so drunk I peed on cobblestones. Thank you Lang.

    Like Cheryl and EBoy, my days here go back to greypageLinks(I remember them from back in the day, even if they don’t remember me. EBoy, the only person who comments on SLAM that’s allowed to be a Heat fan nowadays whitehotEboy!).
    I work with a bunch of younger peops, who have no idea what greypage is all about. When something at work is classically old school, and better than the current version, it has become known as “greypage”. Your amazing work is spinning off into randomness. You are immortal. Which is even better than Ping Ping (thanks Eboy, forgot about Ping Ping…somehow).

    Fri-DAY! YES!

  • sdot

    I have been reading The Links forever and I was a little disappointed when you announced were leaving two years ago but excited for what the future held for you. Obviously you will be missed but you will not be forgotten. Nothing against the other guys from SLAM, but you were always my favorite writer. Your humor and point of view on everything you wrote about was always appreciated and enjoyable. And now it is off to the next adventure! You are going to do great because that is just who you are and what you do! I’m going to end this with a WWE style chant: Thank you Lang! Thank you Lang! Thank you Lang! Thank You Lang!

  • LangWhitaker

    Thanks so much!

  • LangWhitaker

    Thanks for the note, but SLAM’s going to continue to be amazing. Let your sub slide and you lose.

  • Allenp

    Congrats

  • Darksaber

    Been a reader since issue 3, online participant and commenter since the first days of the site. Between Lang, Ryan, Sam, Russ, Omar and the incredibly friendly Ryne, it is surreal to feel connected to people who cover my fav sport without actually having met any of them.

    This has been the only site i have regularly engaged in dialogue, debate or banter in the last decade or so. There was always something unique about the magazine and the website made me feel at home almost immediately.

    Lang was a big part of that, engaging in conversation with Linkstigators when comments were introduced, remembering little details of past discussions and generally being very humorous in his approach. He was also part of my ONLY online contest win to date, small highlight of reading SLAMONLINE was the NBA Live ’10 win. (yayyy)

    As Eboy also stated earlier, i don’t take the time to comment as often anymore, the people i most liked to write to and with have reduced their activity here and life moves on. Still check the site everyday and am a subscriber cause Slam is kinda burnt into my subconscious.

    Lango; congrats on your expanded role in the NBA landscape, you earned it with your integrity and unique way to articulate your thoughts.

    And thank you for years of entertaining and informing us all.

    PS: keep using those semicolons, man.

  • Okitech623

    I have no clue how I stumbled upon The Links back in the day but I’m so glad I did. I’ll never forget emailing you with news that Hubie Brown was being hired as the Memphis coach. You ran it in The Links and gave me a shout out. I was so geeked out. I linked to that day’s Links on my blog and everything. I’ve been coming to SLAMOnline nearly every day ever since. It’s cool seeing you moving on to bigger, better things. Thanks for the wonderful, insightful writing you’ve graced us with over the years. Take care and be blessed.

  • LangWhitaker

    Thanks!

  • LangWhitaker

    Thank; You.

  • LangWhitaker

    +1

  • albie1kenobi

    Goodness. It’s good bye for real huh, Mr Whitaker? Us Linkstigators will always be grateful for you.
    Good luck on your next chapter!!

  • arthur

    Congratulations, Lang! Your cover story on Rasheed Wallace (#49) was the first issue of SLAM I ever read, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Another personal favourite was finding about Ricky Rubio about 18 months before the rest of the world. Best of luck in the future!

  • David Edfeldt-Bonnie Steussy

    Hi Lang, David Edfeldt and Bonnie Steussy reporting in from Seattle! So glad Claire reposted this. Richard Edfeldt sent us your first book, but thats as far caught up as we were up with your career. Bravo on making your dream come true! And congratulations on parenthood! Loved that you covered GP’s induction to the Hall of Fame. We lucked out by having a Seattle Sonics co owner as a Dad in the school we founded which meant we scored box and courtside tickets for numbers of games over the years. ” The Glove” was my personal favorite! Right now the community is working on getting an NBA team back. There is nothing like an exciting basketball game! It sounds like you are definately ‘in the zone’ Congratulations! (we so loved your Grandpa Carl-Uncle Carl to us. We know he’s watching you and is bursting with pride)

  • OneStep

    Lang, you were the reason to check out the Links all those years ago. Your insightfulness and humour was a breath of fresh air. Since you took a step sideways 2 years ago things just haven’t been the same. Now that you’re gone for good I reckon it’s time for me to move on too.

    I’ll be keeping an eye on your progress up the ladder. To use a football (soccer) parlance, “The boy done good!”

    All the best Lang.

  • LangWhitaker

    For realz. Thanks!

  • LangWhitaker

    Thank you. I hope to get back out there soon!

  • LangWhitaker

    Thanks!

  • LangWhitaker

    thanks!

  • INGSOC

    LANG you are a writin jesse and Dominique is a boss ass name

  • http://twitter.com/Hoopistani Karan Madhok

    Grew up on the Links, the reason I became a bigger basketball fan, the reason that it became my dream to write for SLAM too, the reason that I DID end up writing for SLAM. Thanks Lang!

  • The homie

    Much respect! I don’t check in as often anymore, but the Links were a must read for years. Like Eboy said, the 9/11 stuff was some of my favourites too. Best of luck Lang.

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