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|| News Item: Posted 2016-04-20

Covering Kobe
LA photographers' thoughts on covering Kobe Bryant’s 20-year career

By Sports Shooter Staff

Photo by Scott Varley/Daily Breeze, Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY, Robert Gauthier/LA Times

Photo by Scott Varley/Daily Breeze, Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY, Robert Gauthier/LA Times

Kobe Bryant: Post-dunk celebration against the Spurs in 2003; Celebrating game 6 against the Pacers in 2000; Dunk over Steve Nash during the quarter finals against the Suns in 2006.
As Kobe Bryant wrapped up his 20-year NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers, there were countless tributes by writers, broadcasters and fans. But I felt that the ones that had a “front row seat” to Bryant’s exploits on the court were the photographers that covered him on a regular basis in LA.

Love him or hate him, there is no denying that Kobe Bryant is one of the best basketball players of all-time. So I asked some of my fellow Southern California photographers their thoughts about covering Kobe Bryant. Here are their thoughts in their own words:

Los Angeles Times
“What is there to say about covering an amazingly talented, personally flawed, interestingly imperfect human being from beginning to end of his career. Following him through the viewfinder on the court is always, even to this day, exciting. As a lifelong Lakers fan who wore #13, a headband, and taped his fingers like Wilt Chamberlin while playing for San Luis Rey Elementary, I love that Kobe spent his whole career with the team. The cult of personality he and the Lakers tried so hard to create made for deep conversations with other fans and haters alike. Not often do we get front row seats to such a fantastical show. I believe we may not see anything like it again.”

Associated Press
“I have been lucky enough to have photographed Kobe Bryant from the start of his career to the finish. I consider Kobe to be a photographer¹s dream in that he plays as if he knows what makes a great photograph. A lot of athletes can do amazing things, but very few can do it with the style and expression that Kobe can. “

Orange County Register
“Kobe Bryant. What a talent. It's definitely been a pleasure to be able to document what many believe to be the best basketball player of our generation, if not ever. It's hard to imagine another player possessing the drive and fire of Kobe. Always a competitor. Always The Mamba. At the time, it was hard to fathom his career ever ending, that some day he would hang up his sneakers and that it would all be over kind OF snuck up on me. Call that the folly of youth (though I'm not that young anymore) or just naiveté but having gone through it with Kobe, I've come to appreciate covering the once-a-generation talent that is Mike Trout. Best of luck Kobe, though you've never needed it.”

Reuters News Pictures
I photographed Kobe playing for the Los Angeles Lakers and for Team USA from 2001-14. His athleticism was magic to watch, especially in the early years of his career. I've never witnessed another basketball player with the same consistent desire to win as Kobe had at all times; it was an inspiration.

Photo by Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Photo by Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

U.S. players (L-R) Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony hold their gold medals after defeating Spain in the men's basketball finals at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
“I thought of Kobe off the court as a different person: an enigma with a personality I couldn't know from watching the pure joy of his basketball game. There was the time when we were all waiting for the Lakers to comment on the rape allegations against him in 2003, and instead Kobe turned up with his wife and began crying in the press conference. I saw the tear begin to roll down his cheek out of the corner of my eye through a 300mm lens, and realized I had been focused on his wife, wondering what she must be thinking.

“During the 2003-04 season when the Lakers signed Karl Malone and Gary Payton, I began the season trying to shoot Kobe, Shaq, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton in one frame. After a few games, I realized photographing Kobe and Shaq in one frame would be a huge challenge; they avoided walking near each other or even looking at each other. I spent every game from October to April trying to make a frame of the two of them together, and I didn't succeed until April. During each of the games, I followed Kobe's every move with my camera as he walked around with his focus “turned inward. The frame of the two of them together was a photo of Kobe brushing past Shaq; he is looking up at Shaq, glaring, and Shaq is staring into the distance. Sports Illustrated magazine published the photo on their cover with the headline: ‘It’s Over: The Fall of the Lakers and the Resetting of the NBA.’

“Kobe playing for Team USA at the Beijing 2008 Olympics was a contrast and a pleasure to watch. Kobe, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony played together under the coaching of Mike Krzyzewski. They seemed to enjoy playing together, and constantly joked around on the bench and during practice. They won an Olympic gold medal in a way that seemed so elegant and effortlessly, it made me wonder why the U.S. couldn't have done that in 2004. The talent of the U.S. players is so sublime, it's frustrating to watch when their creative improvisation doesn't add up to a virtuoso performance that is more than the sum of the individual parts; in 2008 it did."

Pasadena Star
“I was fortunate to be able to photograph Kobe throughout his career. A few words and thoughts that come to mind when I think of him is being determined, tenacious, a almost no blinking will to win. A will to just destroy the other team. A Super Star, yes, A Hall of Famer, of course, Flawed, well he is human, he had his weaknesses, but when is was beat on the court, those few times he came back stepped to the line and had legendary performances.”
Photo by Keith Birmingham/Los Angeles Newspaper Group

Photo by Keith Birmingham/Los Angeles Newspaper Group

Daily Breeze
“My favorite memory of shooting Kobe over the years was being on hand the night he scored 81 points against Toronto on Jan. 22, 2006. By halftime, it seemed like something special was happening (Kobe had around 30 points if I remember), but in the third quarter, Kobe began to really pour it on and in the 4th quarter, you could see his point total going through the roof. Everyone at Staples Center would explode each time he made a basket and his teammates kept feeding him the ball. By time it was over, he had 81 points and history was made (though he didn't break Wilt Chamberlin’s record). It was a fun night. Our editors cleared their planned A-1 coverage to make room for the breaking news that Kobe scored 81.”

Reuters News Pictures
“He was much faster to shoot than Michael Jordan. That's not to knock Michael in anyway. Kobe came into the league as a kid out of high school and Michael was much older when you matched them up. Kobe also came in around the start of digital, so we were going from 5 frames a second on full frame film cameras to maybe 1.5 frames a second on very early DCS520 Canon Kodak hybrid cameras with tiny chips.

I first shot him in Vancouver against the Vancouver Grizzlies in March of 1998. But my favorite frame was him with Shaq after they won their first championship together June 19, 2000 in Los Angeles.”

“I’ve been in Los Angeles for 27 years and have photographed a lot of great Laker players during that time. ‘Showtime’ had faded by ‘89 ---Magic, Kareem, Worthy and Cooper were at the end of their careers. So when I think of covering the Lakers, I think: Kobe Bryant. It’s rare that a player spends an entire career playing for one team, let alone for 20 years. The dunks, the hang-time and the seemingly impossible jumpers were the obvious things we captured with our cameras. But it was the emotion and fire in the way he played that was the thing that captivated us photographers and the fans. He had a prickly reputation in dealing with reporters, but I like to think of athletes mostly on what they do playing the game and how I capture them with my cameras. And Kobe Bryant is by far the best I’ve photographed during my time in LA.”

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