kobe bryant

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Words: Ann Donahue
Photography: Andrew Bernstein/Andrew D. Bernstein Associations Photography Inc., Michael Bernstein

Lakers? Clippers? Kings? Photographer Andrew Bernstein is up close and personal with all of them.

Andrew Bernstein’s official title is Director of Photography for Staples Center and Nokia Live—which sounds fancy and all, but it’s the scope of his work that reveals it as a dream job for the sports obsessive. For more than 30 years, Bernstein, the longest tenured photographer in the NBA, has captured the moments that have resonated with fans—from the famous shot of Michael Jordan at the peak of his Airness to rare behind-the-scenes quiet moments with Kobe Bryant.

With the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals about to start, we asked Bernstein to take us through some of the most famous moments he’s caught on camera.  

Michael Jordan
michael jordan

This was when the big stars were actually in the Dunk Contest, at the 1988 All-Star Weekend. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this moment became iconic in NBA history because he took off from the free-throw line.  You can see on the far left Dominique Wilkins and Clyde Drexler. I think Michael was behind Dominique at the time, and Michael pulled this dunk out to win the whole thing.

Magic Johnson
magic johnson

Magic was so difficult to shoot. I only take one picture every four seconds. To get him in mid-air actually going to the basket – which he didn’t do a lot, he actually passed more than he shot – and then surrounded by the whole other team? I love that moment in time. 

Kobe Bryant dunks on LeBron James
lebron james

This is an angle where the camera is actually on the floor, pre-focused. This is about getting the one shot in the one millisecond of peak action. To get Kobe against LeBron and Dwyane Wade just makes the shot even cooler. If I’d waited another millionth of a second, he probably would have had his arm against his face and the ball wouldn’t have been place right. 

Kobe Bryant and Andy Bernstein
kobe bryant

I get to hang out in the locker room and do my thing; the guys all know me and they’re used to me being in there. Very, very rarely do I get a picture, but I asked him because it was just a moment when he was hanging out and I was hanging out. 

Blake Griffin
blake griffin

The camera is actually on a bracket on a clamp behind the glass of the backboard, pre-focused on the area right in front of the rim. It’s a Nikon DSLR. It’s triggered by this radio control system that we use to fire multiple cameras. Every given game I’m doing between 7 and 10 remote cameras. I’m sitting on the other side of the court and when someone gets close to the rim, I push the button. 

LeBron James and Tim Duncan
lebron james

This was in the 2013 Finals. This is my overhead angle, the camera mounted on the catwalk with a 300mm lens and also fired remotely. They’re both falling backwards, and it’s just a weird take on this particular angle. Usually they’re upright, and you’re seeing the top of their heads. It would have been a good shot with any two guys, but the fact that it’s the two stars make it really cool.

Pre-game Kobe Bryant
kobe bryant

This season, 2009-2010, I was traveling with the Lakers extensively because I was working on a book with Phil Jackson called Journey to the Ring. This picture happened in New York, in Madison Square Garden, the second day of a back-to-back, and Kobe was really beat up that season. He’s got a busted finger, his ankles were swollen, they played a really difficult game in Cleveland the night before and got to the hotel at 4 a.m. This is about an hour and 15 minutes before game time. I just clicked one shot, very quietly, and got out.

Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson
kobe bryant

This is one of my favorite pictures ever. This is the 2009 Finals, it’s the first Kobe won in the post-Shaq era. It was Phil’s 10th championship, which tied him with Rich Auerbach. You can see it on Kobe’s face – it’s a satisfying moment. He proved everyone wrong. And it’s a very paternal moment. Phil is very proud of this guy. I’m right on top of them with a super fisheye lens. This is the only photograph that I ever shot that my wife allows us to hang in the house. We have four kids, and it’s kind of a parenting moment I like to look at.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson
larry bird

This was the ’87 Finals and what’s interesting about this is that these two guys never, ever matched up against each other. One was a guard, the other was a forward. The only two times you would ever get a possibility of these guys being in the same frame together was when they lined up for a free throw, which was what this was – or during the Captain’s meeting, which was pre-game.

Jonathan Quick
jonathan quick

Jonathan Quick, the goalie, had just such a tremendous year. He actually saved this – stick flying, butterfly position – and the puck didn’t go in. I like the symmetry of it, we cropped it a little bit because it’s a horizontal shot, but it’s all right there in front of you. 

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05 2015 RedBulletin.com

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