In continuing my retrospective I am shocked in the challenge this post presented. As I've said in the past, I seldom have time to reflect on the year so when I did I saw just how much I've done in 2015 and it was quite the task to narrow it down to only two posts. Here I'll share one more video and almost 30 images that highlight my adventures with Sydney Dwyer-Leroux, in Mexico City with FIBA, on the playgrounds of NYC, and some other memorable moments 2015 has given me.
Every year I do my best to visit each of NYC’s top summer leagues and 2015 was no different. From Dyckman to LES Express, from West 4th to Hoops in the Sun, from Nike Pro City to Gersh Park I made my rounds and caught some great match ups.
Gersh Park has featured some of the most exciting match ups in recent years. Levance Fields vs Erving Walker was definitely a classic battle of NYC point gods, a story that will likely live a long time in barber shops, on stoops, and at lunch room tables at the least. As such, I’ve made some of my favorite images of the summer in the concrete jungle at Gersh Park in 2015.
I teamed up with Jordan Brand to create my images from the sidelines of the prestigious Jordan Brand Classic in NYC. I was able to photograph some familiar faces from the Elite Youth Basketball League and meet some new (to me) people, which is always nice. I followed the players as they toured Gotham and practiced at the peerless Jordan Terminal 23. For the first time in its history, the JBC included a girls game and Maya Moore was the catalyst behind making that happen. She spent time with the inaugural class of girls JBC All-Americans and advised them on the journey ahead. I was truly honored to witness history and Moore’s genuine passion for the game first-hand.
The EYBL holds a special place for me. As a basketball fan, former player, coach, and purist it just doesn’t get much better than the EYBL. 40 teams from across the country and Canada all competing for a shot at a Peach Jam title and, on an individual level, a scholarship to college. The stakes are high and the energy is non-stop high octane.
On a typical day in the EYBL I am on the baseline for about 10 hours, roaming from court to court, documenting the emotion and the journey. It definitely takes a toll on my body and the hangover can be rough, but it’s worth every moment. The adrenaline rushes through me the entire time. From a basketball standpoint it’s hard not to be excited when I see an exceptional play, and there are many. And as a photographer I continuously get excited when I know I’ve captured the right moment. It’s almost like I’m making the play. The anticipation is quite possibly the most challenging thing about sports photography and chasing those ephemeral shots keeps me going even when my hand starts to cramp up.
So many moments from the season stand out when I look back. When Jordan Barnes hit that buzzer-beating game winner to send the Saint Louis Eagles to the Peach Jam championship. The moment when Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum hugged each other after the game was brief, but powerful. When Team Final came this close to upsetting Team CP3 off a potential game-winning steal and dunk by Lamar Stevens. When JR and Lil Chris joined me on the sidelines. Such good times.
In 2015 I linked up with 24/7 Laundry Service and LG Electronics to photograph Olympic Gold Medalist Sydney Leroux-Dwyer during a commercial shoot. She had just come off of surgery and it was her first time really training. Listening to her share her comeback story and witnessing her resilience throughout her workout was yet another reminder of why I love basketball and documenting sports. While I cannot relate to earning an Olympic gold medal or playing fútbol/soccer, I can totally empathize with her journey.
If you’ve read my blog over time or have followed me on social media for long enough, you know that I have a special connection to The Boys’ Club of New York. In 2015 I did some video work with the organization that I grew up in and I got to meet some incredible people. From current members to new staff and single moms, I feel so grateful to be able to highlight these individuals and tell even a small sliver of their stories. If you are looking for volunteer opportunities in NYC, I strongly recommend BCNY. The program is transformational and I am living proof.
Just one year away from the Olympics, the FIBA Americas tournament in Mexico City was one of few remaining opportunities for nations to punch their ticket into the most prestigious world tournament. I teamed up with FIBA to capture not only the peak action on the court but also the action taking place throughout and around the arena with sponsor activations.
When I started creating my shots from the sidelines of the NYC playgrounds, I set an ambitious goal to be the greatest basketball photographer in the world. I may never reach that goal, but I strive for that level of greatness every time I bring my eye up to the viewfinder and that's the point of setting such audacious goals anyway. That said, going from the playgrounds to the highest possible level of international competition is a major honor and milestone in my journey and lifelong pursuit of sustained greatness. 10 years ago I would never have thought that I'd actually be traveling the globe and roaming the sidelines and catwalks of Olympic qualifying events. All those years of the playground being my muse have paid off in a major way and that's why I love returning when I'm in New York.
What surprised me about this event was bumping into my former high school teammate, Luis Flores, who was representing the Dominican Republic’s national team. It was great to see one of my former teammates playing at that level and linking up the way we did.
Hands down the most amazing part of 2015 was marrying my best friend, Alexa. We decided to get married on the beach and were thrilled to have our family and closest friends join us for the party. 2015 will be hard to top, but I am super amped to continue learning and growing in 2016.