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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2009-12-28

Decade Collection: Wally Skalij
'I guess I’m an adrenaline junkie and realizing if I can’t be the athlete why not get as close as possible to it.'

By Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times

Photo by Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Photo by Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Shaquille O'Neal is sprayed with champaigne inside the Lakkers locker room after defeating the 76ers to win the NBA Championship in Philadelphia.
Back in high school being a Lakers fan, I went to my first game with some buddies and sat way at the top of the Forum watching great players like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Michael Cooper and Kurt Rambis. I remember paying more attention to the working photographers than to the actual game, and saying to a friend how lucky those people are to be sitting on the court experiencing what some of us could never afford.

That day changed my life and decided to pursue photojournalism. As a kid I always fantasized about being an athlete in every sport and hitting the game-winning shot in the NBA Championship or hitting the home run that would win the World Series for our team. At one point I imagined being a jockey winning the Kentucky Derby. I guess I’m an adrenaline junkie and realizing if I can’t be the athlete why not get as close as possible to it.

This picture of Shaquille O’Neal celebrating in the locker after winning the NBA Championship against the 76ers kind of sums up what I have always wanted to feel. It’s the one picture I keep going back to when somebody asks me what is my favorite or most memorable photo. Although the photo is not perfect it does sum up what I wanted to experience in my career.

I chose this image as one of my favorites in the past decade because I got to feel, see, smell and taste (champagne) what its like to win an NBA Championship. In this one frame it tells me how much dedication and hard work it takes to be successful and the ultimate reward for achieving it. It also brought out the kid in me.


(Wally Skalij is a Los Angeles Times staff photographer. You can see Wally's member page here: http://www.sportsshooter.com/skalij)

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