Monday, April 30, 2007

(No) picture of a slam dunk

In the winter of 1983-84, I was covering high school basketball for a small daily newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina, and I was sent to cover a game at Edneyville High School. I was warned that they had a 6-foot-6 white player who was the best Class 1-A player in the state. Yeah, sure. Big deal.

So I was kneeling under the basket when this phenom stole the ball. He headed downcourt, and I was ready with my handy-dandy camera. He took off a foot inside the foul line, offered the ball underhanded to the basket, pulled it back, brought it around and did a rollicking one-handed slam. I kneeled there, slack-jawed. Didn't take the picture. Didn't even think of taking the picture.

A few weeks later, I was more accustomed to this player and what he could do, and I was sitting on the other end of the court. I had my notepad beside me (I was keeping the game to write it up later) and my camera on my lap. Big Man On Campus dribbled the baseline to my left, and a Tryon player stuck out his hip to force the high-flying star out of bounds. He leaped around the guy, reached back inbounds and floated the ball into the basket.

I didn't have time to look through the viewfinder, so I just fired from the hip. When the photos were developed, I got a panoramic shot of BMOC flying around and above a shocked Tryon player, with the ball sailing toward the basket. You could see other players, at least one ref and a bunch of fans looking on in disbelief. It was sharp and a great story-teller.

Couldn't have done better if I'd planned it.

Ironically, the sports editor at first didn't want to use that photo, since we'd run so MANY pictures of that player. But, in the end, we did run it.

I never took a better picture for him (or maybe of anyone else, either).

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