Kirchner: Farewell to Atlanta, the place where I grew up as a reporter and as a person

When I first walked into the Atlanta Hawks’ training facility in 2018 to meet Justin Anderson, I had no idea what I was doing. I also had no idea how I got the job.

I remember telling Anderson, who had just traded with Hawks, the same thing: I had no idea what I was doing. Fortunately, Anderson is one of the nicest people in the NBA and couldn’t have been more patient and understanding that I was thinking about how to do everything quickly.

The story I wrote about Anderson and the trade with Atlanta was the first basketball story I ever wrote. Before covering the Hawks, I was writing about high school football recruiting at the University of Alabama, and now I’ve been covering the NBA. I have to thank Bay Area columnist Marcus Thompson II first. Without him, I have no idea where I would be. The day I was laid off from my previous job, Marcus, whom I didn’t know personally, told me the athlete He was hiring reporters in Atlanta, and he recommended me. After several interviews, I was covering Hawks magazine and Georgia Tech.

This is my last story as a Hawks reporter and a final weekly as an Atlanta resident. Starting next week, I’ll be joining Lindsay Adler to cover the Yankees the athlete.

I grew up in the Bronx, but Atlanta has been my home for the past 8 years and I will really miss this place. I fell in love with the city for the first time as an intern at 680 The Fan during my junior year in college, and knew this was where I wanted to be. I’m glad I got to experience so many major life events here.

I’m really going to miss covering the hawks. This organization couldn’t have had better people inside of it. From all the way at the top with Tony Ressler to the game-day operations team working at the State Farm Arena that I’ve always held my fist on the field before games. Business is always so much better when everyone you interact with is a quality human being. The PR folks at Garin Narain, Jon Steinberg, Jelani Downing, Billy Hartman and Holden Sawyer were fantastic to deal with on a daily basis. They always made my life as easy as possible, even when sometimes they couldn’t get an interview.

All the Hawks front office executives have always been great to deal with. A special shout out to Steve Konin, Travis Schlink, Andre Fields, Rod Higgins, and the countless people I interacted with.

I feel like I started covering The Hawks at the perfect time for a young reporter with no experience covering the NBA because the franchise was just beginning the rebuilding process. This allowed me to meet a completely new roster of players every season for the first two years. Kent Bazemore, Jeremy Lynn, and Vince Carter taught me a lot in my freshman year. I cannot thank them enough. Alex Lane, Deandre Pembry, and Turrian Prince have always been so generous and thoughtful about their time. Evan Turner and Dwayne Deadmon constantly made me laugh.

Watching Trae Young, John Collins and Kevin Huerter grow up and establish themselves in the league was the coolest part of this job. I had a front row seat from the start, and watching each of these players spend their moments on the biggest stage in the 2021 qualifiers was something I will never forget. I can’t wait to continue watching them all grow from afar.

I will miss the sincerity of Bogdan Bogdanovic and Clint Kabila. They are two of my favorite people I have interacted with in the field. Even when I had to criticize them sometimes, they always understood where I came from. In this job, you won’t make 100 percent of the people you meet happy. It’s a hard lesson to understand as a young reporter, but the older you get, the more you realize how the best reporters are respected because they conveyed the truth whether it annoyed people or not.

I have to mention Lloyd Pierce and Nate Macmillan, two people I’ve spoken to with more than just everyone in my life over the past four years. Coaches talk nearly every day from boot camp to the end of the season. There is a lot to put up with, especially when things don’t go well or the game is lost. I’ve always approached this job on the understanding that sometimes hard questions have to be asked, and I know it’s not always easy to answer in public, so I appreciate Pierce and Macmillan for asking my myriad questions.

And I can’t forget Hawks fans. What an excited group you all are. Once I was hired, you all quickly showed how much you care about this franchise by signing up to read about a team that obviously won’t win many games for a while. When asked if I wanted to focus solely on the hawks after a few months of work, the answer was easy. Don’t let anyone tell you that Hawks fans don’t care about their team; Couldn’t be more wrong.

The interactions I’ve had online with all of you and those I’ve met in the ring have always meant a lot because you all believe in me and my work. I will miss you all. My first goal was to provide you all with information and insights about your favorite team that you can’t get elsewhere, and I know I accomplished that.

I’ll leave you with this: I hope I’ve made you feel something for the past four years. If you get this reference, thank you for swinging by with me for so long.

(Photo: Dale Zanen/USA Today)


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