While sports writing is an incredibly difficult job with endless amounts of pressure mixed in, looking at things through the ‘lens’ of a sports photographer is perhaps twice as stressful.
In the modern day of social media, the basketball photographers work to deadlines sometimes tighter than the writers themselves and with more strain mounted on them. They will scour through hundreds of shots to find the one that best suits what the editor is looking for, even when the game is in progress.
It’s a demanding graft, but an extremely rewarding one.
But say if you were an amateur photographer that took pictures for no reward other than your own personal satisfaction and you were given an opportunity of a lifetime to work and photograph arguably the biggest sporting event on earth: Super Bowl 50.
Most paid photographers would not be happy that a man that takes pictures for a hobby would own a media credential and an official bib for the National Football League’s star-studded event. But this man that snaps for his own enjoyment is Oklahoma City Thunder star and 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant.
“I may be just starting out, but I also like to think that at my height, I might have some different angles than other photographers,” Durant wrote in his article for the Players Tribune. “After all, you’ve gotta play up your strengths.”
But after the Thunder defeated Orlando Magic and before they boarded a plane to Oakland to face the Golden State Warriors, Durant nearly forgot the most important tool for his trip…
“I tried to scan my house in my imagination, searching for something I could’ve left on a table or by the door,” he wrote. “But I had packed my luggage like normal: shoes, gear, headphones, computer. I kept driving but it was still bothering me. Then it hit me: the black bag on the dresser. My Canon 7D. My camera was in there. The one I got for my birthday this year.”
Durant was able to pick it up and make the plane to Oakland with the Thunder team. And once Oklahoma City’s game with the reigning NBA champions ended, Durant swapped the red OKC vest for a simple black shirt and an XL media bib – which was too small for him.
But regardless of how uncomfortable the photographers vest might have been, it was Superbowl time.
And Durant, normally one to be snapped at got to see the other side of the sporting world, and he learned that it is as demanding as being a player. Suddenly Durant was trying to get that one picture that would be worth a thousand words.
“The biggest thing I learned is something I knew on a certain level … but didn’t know until tonight: that sports photography is hard work and it takes a lot of skill and focus in a crazy atmosphere with a lot of distractions,” he wrote. “I have a ton of respect for the people who do this as a profession.”
The Players Tribune gives us a unique insight into the world of sports stars. We read what is, simply put, a journal of events but through their eyes instead of the working media. Now that Kevin Durant has had that experience of seeing what the sports photographer does and how they go about their daily duties, he now knows that journalists work hard at exposing and further promoting sports in general.
All he wanted though was a bigger bib.