Shooting the perfect dunk
Kids playing streetball or millionaires performing in a highly choreographed show? Sport or showbiz? Welcome to the NBA All-Star weekend slam dunk contest.
One of the most satisfying moves to watch in basketball, and one of the easiest to photograph is the dunk, as the player soars above the rim and jams the ball through the net.
The contest pits some of the most athletic NBA players against each other as they compete to execute the flashiest, most difficult, or original dunk.
We’re only given one floor photo position next to the basket, so the challenge is to capture the winning dunk from the best angle. Previous winners have leapt over other players, twisted 360 degrees in the air, extended the height of the basket with a forklift, and jumped over tables.
I mounted a camera with a 400mm lens in the catwalk in the roof of the arena, which I triggered with a Pocket Wizard radio transmitter, to give an overview of all the dunks. I positioned another remote camera on the floor to the side of the court with a wide-angle lens. I was sitting on the baseline to the right of the basket, Gary Hershorn was up in the stands with a 400mm lens and Danny Moloshok was shooting the action from the far end of the court.
Washington Wizards’ JaVale McGee dunked three basketballs in one leap.
Oklahoma City Thunder’s Serge Ibaka snatched a stuffed animal from the rim with his teeth.
Los Angeles Clippers Blake Griffin performed a 360 degree corkscrew dunk, and then hung on the rim with his forearm dangling through the net.
With only one dunk remaining, the stadium went silent in anticipation. A gospel choir walked out onto the floor and began to sing ‘I Believe I Can Fly.’ An NBA official told us all to remove our remote cameras from the floor as a car drove onto the court.
I hastily repositioned my wide-angle remote camera to my left underneath the basket, made a quick, rough focus, and sat down. Seconds later, Griffin ran towards the car, leapt over the hood, fielded a pass from teammate Baron Davis poking out of the sunroof, and lunged at the hoop. Shooting at 1/1000 second, I squeezed off a frame of him sailing over the car, and then swinging on the rim in the aftermath of the basket as the ball shot through his legs. The novelty of his move and its swift execution sealing victory before the ball hit the floor and the crowd roared its approval.