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|| News Item: Posted 2011-04-08

Leaping Lizards: The Story Behind The Jimmer’s Jumper
By Robert Beck, Sports Illustrated

Photo by Robert Beck, Sports Illustrated

Photo by Robert Beck, Sports Illustrated

Robert Beck's photo of Jimmer Ferdette, shot with a remote camera, ran on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Some viewers expressed concern that the image was digitally altered.
Richie Frahm launching a perfect trey against Stanford in the second round of the 1999 NCAA Tournament. That was an image of mine that ran as a Leading Off in Sports Illustrated. The Zags were the new kids on the block, a pretty low seed. They had upset Minnesota in the first round and Frahm and the boys were on their way to bouncing The Cardinal from the big dance. That photograph is still one of my favorite basketball shots.

(Gonzaga coach Mark Few has it up in his office and told me it was one of his faves as well.)

The composition is good. It's got most of the players on the court included. The lights highlight the action and the moment sums up the game and Gonzaga's season. A good start for my little three-point remote! It might have been my first year shooting March Madness. I've always looked for wide angle shots and shots I can't get from a "marked" shooting position. The side of the court under the press tables looked like a good place to stash a remote.

I might have had a few more of those images run through the years but nothing as big as The Frahmer's until...The Jimmer's.

My usual assistant, Mr. Kohjiro Kinno was unable to help me with the March Madness gig this year. He was committed to attending a bachelor party in Vegas. So I took Mr. Jeff Bottari with me.

We spent all of Wednesday setting up cameras and testing for Thursday's games. Once again I set up my little three-point camera. I always set it at the opposite end from where I am sitting (I can shoot three-pointers at my end with a wide hand held camera or a remote camera at my feet.). I mount it on a plexi - floor plate with a smallish Gitzo ball head. It is placed according to where there is space under the table (taking into consideration table legs, human legs, floor joints and TV cable).

I try to get it just inside the rim. Sometimes I'll adjust it after the first day of shooting depending on where three's are likely to be launched. I use the virtual horizon on the Nikon D3 body to make sure is it level as can be and use the live view function to frame it up. I put a prime Nikkor 20mm f2.8 on there to keep the size down. I don't want that thing sticking out onto the court.

Photo by

A diagram showing the shooting positions for Sports Illustrated's game coverage.
I carefully cut a small incision in the bunting fronting the press table to poke the lens through and tape it to the lens to try and keep it out of the frame. I will make sure I speak with whoever will be sitting there to let them know a camera is at their feet. I ask them just to be mindful of it if possible. They are generally pretty good about it.

The camera is focused on the three-point line and a trigger/motor drive cable is run all the way to my seat at the opposite baseline. I hook it to a foot pedal that I mash when I "see" a good picture through the lens of that camera. I need to be aware of who might be shooting a three from around there and be on my toes when they navigate to that corner. I don't want to miss it. There aren't many opportunities. The camera is also hooked into my strobes. It is not linked to the rest of my "system." So when I am firing the "three" it is the only camera going off. No motor drive. One shot of the shot.

Jeff is minding the remotes at the "other" end of the court when the games are going on. He also has five remotes to check during a stoppage in play. It is not easy, especially checking the ones under the press tables. He has to make sure cameras are framed up properly. I shoot them according to how they have been framed, that is how I "see" them from the other side of the court and most importantly he has to check that they are indeed firing.

On Saturday Jimmer Ferdette was The Man. I reminded Jeff several times to double check the three-pointer. I knew it would come into play. Sure enough, Jimmer caught and popped in an instant. I was ready and palmed the foot pedal. Lights popped. Jeff gathered cards at the half (as you can see on the shot clock, he shot with 1:27 left in the first) and came down and said, "That shot of Jimmer is a good one!"

So he was the first to know. From there it was transmitted to the offices in NY by the wonderful Sarah Garratt. That night it was the top shot on "Snapshot," SI's Google Chrome photo site (a free app if you do not already have it).

On Monday at 4PM our director of photography, Steve Fine, dropped me a note informing me that I had the cover. The art department did a good job of fitting my horizontal into the vertical cover format. They didn't have much room to work with, as Jimmer was high in the frame. Gotta watch that logo!

I never worry about cropping that tight. Nikon's files are incredible. A sharp horizontal can always be made into a vertical.

The real excitement started, I guess, on Wednesday night. It was mentioned by someone at the four-letter network that the image might have been Photoshopped. I suppose they thought Jimmer (white guy) couldn't jump that high.

They have obviously never seen Karch Kiraly jump higher...In the sand.

Anyway, Dan Patrick, now the defender of all things SI, got on the case. It was one of his big topics of the morning. I received an email from his producer at 5:53AM. He also left a message on my office phone at 5:43AM and one on my cell around the same time.

I slept through all of that.

I woke up around 6:45 to have breakfast with my son. I saw message lights everywhere. I called The DP Show first (SI publicity had also tried to reach me). I asked Pauly "What's up?" He said, "Did you shoot this week's SI cover?" "Yep."

Then he had to explain to me what all the hubbub was about. He wanted to know how I took the picture and to verify that it was NOT Photoshopped. I gave him the skinny. He said thanks and I went back to my cereal.

About five minutes later I got another call from Patrick's producer...."Can you come on the show and tell us about your photo?"

"Sure. When?"


Jeez…won't my cereal get soggy? So the next thing I know I'm on the radio...With Dan Patrick, trying not to sound too techy about my image.

It went quick. Then I went surfing. When I got out of the water I had MORE emails and messages from cohorts and assorted relatives claiming to have listened to the Dan Patrick Show.

My roofer honked at me. I spent most of the day practicing signing autographs and thinking of ways I could have been a better guest for Dan (there were a lot of those).

The final word? BYU lost in overtime to somebody. Off the dance floor Jimmer! Who? What cover? On to...Butler v. VCU.


Photo by
Robert Beck is a Sports Illustrated staff photographer and a frequent contributor to the Sports Shooter Newsletter. You can see his work at his Sports Shooter member page: and at his personal website: He is also a featured speaker at the Sports Shooter Academy Lighting Luau Speaker Night.

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