Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Vault | Charles in Charge

Earlier in the week the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA title in what had to be one of the most boring Finals series in years.
I can only wonder what might have happened had the Suns been at full strength during the decisive game five of their series with the Spurs. Many think, and I would agree, that THAT series was really the NBA Finals.

It got me to thinking about what were, in my opinion, the real glory years of the NBA -- the 90s when Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton were in their prime and the league had real personality.

In the summer of '92 it was incredibly hot in Phoenix (really? ;-)) but was about to get cranked up a couple more notches as the Suns traded with the Philadelphia 76ers for the Round Mound of Rebound, Charles Barkley, considered by basketball experts to be one of the top 50 players of all time and a basketball hall of famer.

I was on staff at the Arizona Republic at the time and photographed Charles from the moment he arrived from Philadelphia (literally at the airport gate) and then proceeded to cover him throughout training camp, preseason, much of the regular season games and finally every playoff game, including the '93 NBA Finals against the Bulls.

In my nearly 20 years in daily journalism, covering Charles was probably the most fun that I had. I had never seen someone come to a town and instantly own it, as Barkley had done. During that first season, there was such a sense of community fueled by the success of the Suns (that is, by Barkley). In my twelve years there, no one or nothing came close to forging that level of community pride, not even the 2001 Diamondbacks World Series win, as amazing as it was.

This photograph was made during the pre season and even then Charles was positively elevated in his play, unusual since most players in that time are easing into playing shape.

Just prior to making this photograph, Charles had stolen the ball near mid-court, and raced for a slam dunk.

Fumbling as I was changing from my down court 400mm lens, I couldn't quite put that lens down and grab the second camera around my neck with a 100mm lens that I would use for the forecourt action. I had to one-hand the camera with the 100 and wasn't able to swing it to a vertical orientation in time.

I was able to focus using the back-button on the camera and Charles finished off the slam with a flourish, going almost parallel to the floor -- had I been able to turn the camera to a vertical position, the resulting image just wouldn't have had the same impact as it did as a horizontal framing.

The photograph finally ran at the end of the season, four columns wide in my own paper. Ironically, my former employer, The Chicago Tribune, ran this photograph six columns wide as it ran an NBA Finals preview on Barkley and the Suns.


Blogger Ruth Anne Adams said...

I believe your giftedness as a photographer owes something to a faith in serendipity.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Peggy Gero DaValt said...

I second that remark!! Again, I love the photos from the Vault. The stories that go with them are amazing...and give us the insight as to what you are doing as a photographer.

Thank you, Bro!!

Peggy :)

9:48 AM  
Blogger Joe in Indy said...

Thanks for another story behind the picture. I marveled, before even reading the story, at the near-horizontal position Barkley's body was in at the moment the frame was captured. It's extraordinary how luck or, as Ruth noted, "serendipity" (great word for it) can be a factor in one's endeavors ... and in all of life, isn't it? Nice photo ... and interesting anecdote behind it!

5:15 AM  

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