Shooting my first Olympics was an emotional, spiritual experience. I found myself overwhelmed with emotion in Rio from the opening ceremony to the time the medals were awarded. Not only was it surreal to realize one of my longterm goals set a decade ago (two decades ago if you count my hoop dreams of actually competing in the Olympics), but the raw emotions of the players and their coaching staffs was palpable at each contest.
It was especially special to document the final games for a generation of global basketball legends like Tony Parker, Carmelo Anthony, Sue Bird, Manu Ginobili, and Diana Taurasi to name a few.
The crowd. Oooooh the crowd. People travel from every rounded corner of the globe to support their national teams at the Olympics and their support can be heard from different arenas. It's actually similar to Peach Jam where while I'm on one court and hear an uproar from the crowd at another court, except these roars are coming from different sports across adjacent venues in the Olympic Park. Argentina's fans were particularly special to observe. They rolled close to 10,000 deep, if not more, and they sang. Man, did they sing. They seemed to have a whole playlist and all 10,000 fans knew every single word and would rotate for the entire game, even over the music in the arena. I just marveled at times from the baseline, basking in the amazing love for the game, for their nation, its team, and perhaps most especially for Manu Ginobili. Even Melo stood up on the USA bench and slowly turned around in awe of the crowd.
Team USA's women's squad was also special. I witnessed another, deeper level of greatness whenever they took the floor. They embodied competing as one cohesive unit. They played hard for 40 minutes at a time. And they had fun doing it all en route to extending their historic run. Team USA's women's national team has not lost a game in the Olympics since 1992. Insert wide-eyed emoji here. In case you forgot, allow me to remind you that it is 2016 at the time I am writing this post. That is a long streak of sustained greatness.
There was one day during my entire time in Rio when I had an opportunity to catch up on some rest. With that time I decided to forego my sleep and pay a visit to the Christ the Redeemer monument and I am so glad that I did. I went up with new friend and fellow photographer Milad from Iran. What a truly magnificent experience. Seeing this monument alone is worth a trip to Rio. I can't really put my experience into words, but I would have kicked myself had I missed out on that opportunity.
I pinched myself a few times in Rio to make sure I wasn't dreaming. Fortunately I returned with some photos to reflect back on the experience for years to come. I know I love photography and basketball because in spite of my average of about 4.5 hours of sleep per night, I was razor sharp on the sidelines and can honestly say that I absolutely loved every moment of the experience. I've traveled a long, long way on my journey from the playgrounds of New York City—first as a player and later as a photographer—to the zenith of all zeniths, the Olympics and have learned a tremendous amount just from sitting among the greatest sports photographers in the world.
I hope you enjoy these images as much as I enjoyed creating them. I am super blessed to have found my labor of love and to be able to earn a living following my passion. I recently read in Cal Newton's Deep Work, "If you can't learn, you can't thrive." And as much as I loathed school as a kid, I absolutely love to learn and seek it out every single day. With photography, like many things, every time you peel back a few layers you discover that there is no end to how much you can learn. Keep shooting (photos and basketballs) and keep learning.