Lakers celebrate in the lockerroom after they defeated the Celtics to win… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
The memories stick with me like the Lakers' champagne-filled locker room moments after they won the 2010 NBA championship.
I've witnessed Kobe Bryant fight through injury and maximize his greatness, personally tutor children at an after-school program and felt his sweat as he playfully rubbed it on me following an intense workout.
I've marveled at Pau Gasol's on-court versatility, seen up close how he interacts with patients at Children's Hospital Los Angeles and even checked in with him miles away when serving as a UNICEF ambassador for the African nation of Chad.
I've laughed at Metta World Peace's antics, including when he used me as an example to demonstrate even reporters can avoid flops. I also learned about his humanity when I saw him talk openly about his mental health issues with patients at the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA.
But as I type these words on my last day of a 2 1/2-year gig as The Los Angeles Times' Lakers blogger, other memories will stay with me longer.
Countless editors gave me the freedom to expand this blog in ways I never thought imaginable. My writing mentors here provided constant encouragement and pointed out ways I could improve my craft. Everybody on the copy desk helped my words become easier to read. The readers' support and unquenchable desire for Lakers' coverage elevated my need to satisfy that fix with news updates, analysis, feature stories and light-hearted items.
That's why it's both a sentimental and exciting time for me now that I will be leaving to become The Los Angeles Daily News' Lakers beat writer, effective tomorrow. It will provide me an opportunity to elevate my Lakers coverage on a different platform. Yet, I know this wouldn't be possible without the support of others.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Times sports editor Mike James, former blog editor Tony Pierce and NBA editor Barry Stavro for giving me a chance with this gig (and the many who recommended me).
I learned plenty from both The Times' current and former NBA beat writers (Mike Bresnahan, Brad Turner, Ben Bolch and Lisa Dillman) and columnists (Bill Plaschke, T.J. Simers, Mark Heisler and Helene Elliott) on how to maximize my strengths and alleviate my weaknesses. Countless other reporters and editors have also helped out along the way.
For that, I thank you.
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You can email Mark Medina at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.