OVER-TIME: by the nostalgic sports freak…SLAM Distant Replay

Today we get a very personal  feel of what it’s like to go one on one with some of  basketballs best players – That would be interviewing them for  www.slamonline.com and SLAM Magazine.   We are very pleased to have Executive Editor, Lang Whitaker (at right with Kevin Garnett) with some very interesting stories.

Andy : As Executive Editor of SLAM Magazine,  you prefer covering the Final Four or the NBA Finals?

Lang: As to Final Four versus the NBA Finals, I mostly cover the NBA for SLAM. I’ve been to every NBA Finals since 2002, but I’ve only been to one Final Four (2006 in Atlanta, when Florida beat Ohio State), and that was because it was in Atlanta and I just happened to be in town.
I just prefer the NBA to college basketball in general. Yeah, the money colors everything in the NBA — some of these guys play as much for the love as they do the contract — but the athletes in the NBA are amazing, maybe the most athletic people in the world. I understand the appeal of college basketball — the fanfare, the spirit, etc. — but considering how so few guys are good enough to make it at the next level, to me the level of basketball just isn’t that great. So I’m an NBA guy.
(This may also be because I went to the University of Georgia, which hasn’t had an elite basketball team since the early 1980s.

Andy:  You have interviewed hundreds of basketball stars from High School to Pros. Do you have one that stands out as the best, or most fun you can remember and why?

Lang: I’ve been at SLAM for nearly 100 issues now, and I’ve written about one feature per issue, so I’ve had a ton of memorable experiences doing this job. I’ve gone to Hawaii to interview Kobe Bryant, I’ve been to Barcelona to interview Ricky Rubio. I’ve played blackjack in Vegas with Chris Paul, I’ve stood on the shore of Biscayne Bay with Dwyane Wade. And I’ve done one-on-one interviews with everyone from David Stern to LeBron James to Kevin Garnett to all the guys I mentioned above.
One of the funniest experiences came years ago when I was supposed to do a SLAM cover story about Rasheed Wallace. Sheed was notoriously fickle and rarely did interviews, but he agreed to do an interview with me. I offered to fly out to Portland (he was on the Blazers at the time) but he sent word that we could do the interview when the Blazers were in New Jersey a few days later.
So I went to the Nets/Blazers game a few days later and approached Rasheed in the locker room before the game. I introduced myself, thanked him for giving us time, and asked if we could do the interview. He said he wanted to do it after the game, which made me nervous because the Blazers would be flying out after the game and I wouldn’t have a lot of time to talk to him. But he was adamant so I agreed.
During the game, Rasheed got a technical foul called on him and the Blazers lost right at the end of the game, so I knew he wouldn’t be in a great mood in the locker room. I hustled down and camped out in front of his locker, and when he emerged from the showers, a few other reporters came over as well. Rasheed turned to face us and one reporter asked him something about the game that had just ended. Rasheed pointed to me and said, “I’m only talking to SLAM.” he did this a few times until all the other reporters left. I stood there both embarrassed and a little proud.

Andy:  How about those Harlem Globetrotters? Ever have the opportunity to watch/cover them live against the Washington Generals? They always have a tough time with them.

Lang:  Funny you mention them, because I saw an ad for the Globetrotters on TV a few months ago and immediate sent an email to Ben (Editor in Chief) that we should do a feature on the Globetrotters. They have so much history, from fighting against racial prejudice to giving a start to guys like Wilt Chamberlain. And even though the Globetrotters aren’t nearly as famous as they used to be, they’re still hanging in there, still touring, still playing basketball. It’s such a basketball-specific story that it seemed like a no-brainer for us to do in SLAM. Ben agreed, and over the next few days Ben and I started talking about early stuff like possible writers and timing for the story. A few days later we got the new issue of Sports Illustrated and there was a long feature story on the Globetrotters. So we ditched the idea.
I’ve never covered a Globetrotters game but I think there’s still a compelling story there. I did to a Globetrotters game at the OMNI in Atlanta once when I was a kid. And I own a Meadowlark Lemon throwback jersey. So there’s that.

Andy:  I grew up in New York, but have lived in Georgia for almost 20 years now. You are the opposite.  Huge Georgia fan now working in New York City – Old Broadway in fact. Do you miss the South, or do you prefer the fast track?

Lang:  First, I love New York City, and I love that I get to live in New York City.  I’ve been all over the world, and New York City is one of the coolest cities I’ve ever seen. And I get to live here, which is amazing to me.
That said, I do miss the pace of the South, the quiet, the open spaces. I also miss my family, my wife’s family, the friends I grew up with, the places where I grew up. I get to come home pretty regularly, since it’s only about a 90 minute flight from New York to the ATL.  I still root like crazy for the Braves, Hawks, Falcons and for UGA.  And thanks to all the cable channels and the internet, following my teams is pretty easy to do.

Andy:  One thing I definitely miss is catching the Knicks (not so much anymore) and the Rangers at the Garden.  How often do you get to sit court/ice side?

Lang:  Never.  They can get a lot of money for that real estate, so most of the press sits about halfway up the lower level. I’ve sat courtside in other arenas, though. Once I was sitting in the front row in Dallas at a game, and a loose ball came flying at my head. I saw it coming soon enough to duck my head just in time to avoid a hit.  It then drilled the woman sitting behind me in the nose.

Andy:  You’ve written tons of articles for many publications.  Any books being published in the future?

Lang:  Why yes I do, Andy!  Thanks for asking!  I’m currently working on my first book, a memoir about growing up as a fan of the Atlanta Braves, and the life and baseball lessons I’ve learned from watching the Braves and Bobby Cox.  The book is being published by Scribner and will be out, I think, in 2010. Which reminds me, I gotta go work on it…..

Andy:  Thanks for the time Lang- Can’t wait to read the book!


  1. Slick says

    To bad he never interviewed Wilt. I’d like to get to the bottom of some of his off-the-court antics. Many secrets died with him. When is a Wilt the Stilt tribute t-shirt being minted?

  2. Doug Bisson says

    Greta interview. I love the Globetrotters and Final Four and high school shirts. The book about Bobby Cox should be interesting. He and LaRussa are among the greatest managers.


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