My experience in Spain was nothing short of incredible. This was in part because of my love for the game and in part because of my passion for creating my shots from the sidelines (and sometimes the catwalks, locker rooms, and pretty much anywhere I'm allowed to put a camera). The stage was about as great as it could be with a gold medal and national pride on the line. The only grander stage would have to be the Olympics. Suffice it to say that my adrenaline was high every time the ball was tipped off.
I gained a genuine appreciation for international basketball. The energy, passion, and support was second to none in Spain. Fans traveled literally from all over the world to support their teams. Sure, these are national teams and the stage had a little something to do with drawing fans from near and far, but that should not take away from the ubiquitous zeal and spirit for the game in all corners of the globe. The ambience was reminiscent of the NCAA's March Madness at its finest, but even in the earliest rounds. One might even say the environment was tantamount to that of a battle between any of the greatest American rivalries—Army vs Navy, Duke vs UNC, Michigan vs Michigan State all come to mind.
I've said it before, but I cannot say it enough: working alongside some of the greatest sports photographers in the world was a humbling and electrifying experience. I teamed up with new friends Elio (Italy), Yorgos (Greece), Thilo (Germany), and Matteo (Italy) while in Madrid. What a great group of human beings! We worked hard, had late nights leaving the arena after the final game each night to have dinner at or well past 1 a.m., and worked quickly to upload images at a fast pace. And through all of the industriousness (a word I picked up from the late legendary coach of the UCLA Bruins John Wooden via one of his many awesome books) we laughed and laughed and laughed some more. I can honestly say that I have returned a sharper image maker from this trip and I owe that, in large part, to my new friends and colleagues.
My adrenaline was running so high that even after a long day of creating my images from the sidelines, I could not resist the temptation to create my shots from the actual courts of the Basketball World Cup. As someone who once aspired to play the game at its highest levels and who has dedicated much of my life to playing the game whether in high school or college or on the playgrounds of New York City, the opportunity to play on these courts was a real treat to say the least. I played HORSE and even had the opportunity to get some full court games going on the championship court in Madrid. Easily one of my fondest memories of the experience.
Having photographed Team USA in Las Vegas as they prepared for their trip to Spain and then having the privilege to capture the title game where they earned gold was also an incredible experience. The game ended pretty early as far as any surprises as to which team (Team USA or Serbia) would emerge victorious, but it was sort of a storybook ending for me to have been present at the beginning and the end.
All in all, Spain was absolutely incredible. I had been there before, but this trip was especially special. I had never been to Granada before and the Alhambra was absolutely spectacular in every way. It's mathematically perfect architecture, history, and breathtaking vistas were simply magnificent. Are you counting my adjectives here? I think it's safe to say I really appreciated my time in Granada :) and in Spain in general. I can't wait to go back, hopefully sometime soon.