NBA Finals

Story of a photo: Capturing LeBron’s Game 3 dunk

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 8: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers goes up for a dunk against the Golden State Warriors against the Golden State Warriors in Game Three of the 2016 NBA Finals on June 8, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

CLEVELAND — The frozen moment happened with just under 3 minutes remaining in the third quarter of Game 3 of The 2016 NBA Finals. After knocking loose a pass from Golden State’s Stephen Curry to Festus Ezeli, Cleveland’s LeBron James grabbed the basketball and raced the other way to start a fast break.

Just past halfcourt, James collided with Curry and stumbled, his right knee and hand going to the floor to help him retain his balance, while James used his left hand to slap at the ball and keep his dribble alive. One second later, his bearing renewed, James resumed his dash to the hoop.

Curry was the lone defender between James and the basket, and as James neared the rim, Curry slid one step to his left, to truncate James’s angle of attack. LeBron quickly fired the ball to his left, where his teammate Kyrie Irving was streaking toward the rim. Curry and the basketball reached Irving at nearly the same time, and just as quickly as Irving caught the ball, he sprang off his right foot and immediately flipped the ball back up and over Curry, in the general vicinity of the hoop, where it figured that James would be arriving shortly.

“I knew he was going to throw it up there,” James said later. “And I had to go get it. He threw it, I had to go get it.”

It was not a perfect pass, but it was good enough. It was up to James, then, to do his part. And did he ever.

During the ball’s brief dalliance with Irving, James took five steps in the direction of the basket and then, leveraging his left foot against the court, James launched himself skyward, soaring up and at least equal to the rim.

As he flew, James twisted his torso and reached back with his right hand past the edge of the backboard, corralling the ball, and then he fired it though the hoop with a breathtaking combination of equal parts improbability, power, force and grace.

It was the play of The 2016 Finals thus far, a moment tailor-made to immediately go viral and embed itself in our brains for posterity as one of the signature plays of the 2016 postseason, if not James’ career.


But James and Irving weren’t the only one who did great work on the possession. As LeBron stole the ball and turned toward his basket, sitting a few hundred feet away and a couple of rows up in an arena seat in Quicken Loans Arena’s Section 106, Jesse Garrabrant was also preparing to try and create a different type of NBA Finals history.

A photographer for NBA Photos since 1994, Garrabrant lives on the New Jersey shore and shoots every Philadelphia 76ers home game. As the playoffs build toward an ultimate finish, NBA Photos brings all hands on deck to cover every game from every angle. In Cleveland for Game 3, Garrabrant rigged multiple remote controlled cameras around Quicken Loans Arena, which he could control from a button in his seat in Section 106. While Garrabrant could make the cameras click, he wasn’t actually looking down the viewfinders as the shutter snapped. So Garrabrant was, quite literally, firing blind.

“You want to take chances and if it works, there’s a big bonus,” said Garrabrant a day later. “You get a guy like LeBron who can create an incredible play, and if he’s in the exact right spot, it can totally work. At the same time, it could have also completely struck out, especially when you’re doing directional lighting like that.”

The lighting Garrabrant referred to is a special technique known as “spotlighting.” Garrabrant’s remote cameras for Game 3 were geared to take advantage of this method, which can give action photos a dramatic flair, adding depth and richness. But again, with the reward came a risk. “The lighting covers the paint,” Garrabrant explained, “because that’s where the majority of the action happens. LeBron is going to go to the hole sometime, and you just hope the lighting is going to cover it.”

For Game 3, Garrabrant had a camera clamped to the edge of the set ESPN uses for their live pre-and postgame broadcasts, which is assembled on a platform in a corner of The Q, near Section 113. Unless you looked closely, you wouldn’t notice Garrabrant’s camera. Luckily for the rest of us, this camera saw everything. As it turned out, this was the ultimate angle, from which Garrabrant captured the photo you see at the top of this post.

Within seconds of James’ dunk, Garrabrant’s picture was made available for download via NBA Photos on Getty Images, and it quickly started popping up all over social media. It was tweeted and re-tweeted and shared tens of thousands of times, as fans and other media members expressed their amazement. ESPN’s Don Van Natta tweeted that it was the picture of the year. It “belongs in the damn Louvre,” noted Mashable’s Sam Laird.


While the rest of us marveled over Garrabrant’s image of James’ Game 3 dunk, Garrabrant’s mind drifted back to 2008. As it turned out, Garrabrant may have been the perfect person to capture this dunk from this player from this angle, particularly when you consider he’d done almost exactly the same thing before.

“[James] had almost the same dunk in the ’08 Conference semifinals against Kevin Garnett, in the same spot on the court,” recalled Garrabrant. “Same angle, he threw it the same way, everything, except this was an alley-oop and that one was just him driving to the basket. I shot that game and I got the same angle on that particular dunk.”

CLEVELAND - MAY 12: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers dunks over Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics in Game Four of the 2008 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 12, 2008 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright: 2008 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

We may live in an age where video is increasingly available, streaming at us almost inexorably every time we open a browser window. But there’s still something magical about the perfect photo, which freezes a moment in time in a way that we never want to forget.

Following Game 3, Kyrie Irving was asked about his pass to James on the play. “I wanted to see something great,” Irving said. “I threw it very, very… you know, some people may say it’s a bad pass, but I wanted to see something great.”

At least on this night, we all got to see something great.

The All Ball 2015 NBA Finals Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Here on the All Ball blog, we try to take a big picture look at the NBA, which means we spend as much (or more) time looking at off-court stuff as we do at the on-court. With that established, we thought we would preview the 2015 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers by looking at some of the things that makes each franchise so special…

Their 2015 Finals Hype Video

VIDEO: Cavaliers Finals Hype

ICYMI from 2014-15 — Five All Ball posts worth checking out…

Not quite 30 for 30: LeBron’s Headband

Timofey Mozgov has found a home away from home

Cavs fans share totally normal dinner with JR Smith

The Cavs celebrate Kyrie Irving’s big night

Playing hashtags with the Cavs

Three accounts to follow on Twitter

Iman Shumpert

LeBron James

Matthew Dellavedova

One player to follow on Instagram

JR Smith


A photo posted by JR Smith (@teamswish) on

Three writers/media people to follow for the Cavaliers

Dave McMenamin

Chris Haynes

Jason Lloyd

The All Ball 2015 NBA Finals Preview: Golden State Warriors

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Here on the All Ball blog, we try to take a big picture look at the NBA, which means we spend as much (or more) time looking at off-court stuff as we do at the on-court. With that established, we thought we would preview the 2015 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers by looking at some of the things that makes each franchise so special…

Their 2015 Finals Hype Video

VIDEO: Warriors Finals Hype

ICYMI from 2014-15 — Five All Ball posts worth checking out…

Check out this animated version of Stephen Curry’s warmup routine

California family has ultimate Golden State Warriors fancave

Riley Curry (and her Dad) are going to the NBA Finals

Golden State Warriors release “Splash” music video

Stephen Curry has come a long way

Three accounts to follow on Twitter

Stephen Curry

Klay Thompson

Draymond Green

One player to follow on Instagram

Andre Iguodala

Three writers/media people to follow for the Warriors

Ethan Strauss
Tim Kawakami
Diamond Leung

Jordan Flu Game Details Emerge

1997 NBA Finals Game Five: Chicago Bulls v Utah Jazz

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — A few months ago we learned that the Jordan XII’s Michael Jordan wore during the famous “Flu Game” — also known as Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals — were going up for auction. At the time, there weren’t many details known, other than Jordan gave the shoes to a Utah Jazz ballboy after the game, and that ballboy had hung onto the shoes for nearly two decades now.

But in a piece in today’s Salt Lake Tribune, that ballboy, named Preston Truman, is sharing his side of the story of how he ended up with the iconic kicks, a tale that involves applesauce, graham crackers and being in the right place at the right time.

It’s a fun read, and reveals some cool details from behind the scenes of one of the most memorable NBA games of all-time. From the article…

[Truman] was one of the first in the building to know that Jordan would play that night when, as Bulls coach Phil Jackson gathered the team to go onto the court, Jordan finally got up and put his jersey on. He watched Jordan struggle back to the bench during timeouts; he ran Jordan a spoon for three small cups of applesauce at halftime; he heard Jordan tell doctors “F— no” when they suggested he sit out for a while.

Truman’s parents would later tease him because the broadcast showed him — a lifelong Jazz fan — patting MJ on the shoulder after he wrapped him in a towel.

When Jordan hit the clinching shot and leaned into Pippen’s arms, barely able to stand, Truman estimates he was 5 feet away.

“I was like ‘I think I’m going to see this again and again.’”

(via Salt Lake Tribune)

Twitter Congratulates The Heat

By Jonathan Hartzell, for

No sport has embraced Twitter as much as the NBA in the past few years and last night many NBA players made sure to give their congratulations to repeat champs:

Twitter Watches The Finals

By Jonathan Hartzell, for

After a remarkable Game 6 which saw the Miami Heat fight off elimination against the San Antonio Spurs, the 2013 NBA Finals will be determined tonight with the 18th Game 7 in Finals history.

To help you follow along with what should be an incredible game, this page will update with Tweets from athletes, reporters, analysts, and celebrities throughout the night. Let the fun begin.


What They’re Saying: LeBron’s Headband

San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat - Game 6

By Jonathan Hartzell, for

The Miami Heat‘s season looked to be nearly over during the third quarter of Game 6 of the NBA Finals as their offense stagnated, their defense couldn’t stop fouling, and LeBron James was unable to find a rhythm. But then James took his headband off and everything began to work. He remained headband-less for the rest of regulation, overtime, and post game interviews as the Heat rallied back to beat the San Antonio Spurs 100-103.

Besides sparking the Heat’s run, James’ headband-less look also caused quite a stir on Twitter. From athletes, to reporters, to celebrities, LeBron’s bare scalp allowed us to remember everyone’s got jokes.

Twitter Watches The Finals

By Jonathan Hartzell, for

Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals is finally here and with one win, the San Antonio Spurs can win their fifth NBA Championship in the past 14 seasons. To help you follow the action, this page will update with Tweets from players, coaches, analysts, and reporters watching what should be an incredible game.

Watching A Heat Game The Miami Way

MIAMI — We walked briskly through the tunnels under AmericanAirlines Arena, making nothing but left turns like NASCAR drivers, as we closed in on our final location, which at this point was still undisclosed. I was a few steps behind the man dressed all in while, who was leading me to our destination. I had no choice but to follow him, because he not only knew where we were going, but he had the figurative golden tickets: a pink wristband that would open closed doors and raise velvet ropes.

I have seen my share of NBA arenas, and by that I mean the areas of the arenas that are usually closed to the public — the guts of the stadiums, where they store mascot props and spare basket stanchions and boxes of syrup for sodas. These are usually the areas where they stick sportswriters as well, so we see the parts of the stadiums that haven’t been prettied up and readied for public consumption. Yet I’d heard that there was an area in AmericanAirlines Arena that would flip my expectations — a luxury nightclub carved into the concrete under the seats, just steps away from the court. This was where the celebs in attendance at games would eventually end up. This is the ultimate Miami way to watch a basketball game being played in Miami. This is, of course, where I needed to be.

Before long we neared the portal that led out to the floor on the side of the court near the Heat’s bench. As we neared the court, we suddenly hung a turn and were met by a few large men in suits, who looked us up and down. It was the same look I’d seen in South Beach a few times when I rolled up at a club where I had no business rolling up.

My host unearthed a few wristbands, and moments later we were past security, snaking through a darkened hallway and into Hyde at AmericanAirlines Arena. Hyde debuted this season, a 250-seat “lounge” space that offers “award-winning mixology, cuisine, events, hospitality and design in a space featuring multiple bars, an array of lounge seating and a private dining room.” Moët & Chandon even serves up Moët Ice Impérial, the world’s first-ever champagne specifically created to be enjoyed on ice, as the “Official Champagne of White Hot: The 2013 HEAT Playoffs.”

It was over an hour before tip-off, so the space was still filling up. I grabbed a seat at the bar and passed on the iced champagne — I was ostensibly working, after all. But I was hungry, so I ordered the first thing on the menu and chatted with the bartender, as she explained how it works — fans reserve space online watch the game from inside Hyde, then stay after and either celebrate or drown their sorrows. A DJ was perched high above the room, spinning music, and a few huge TVs showed the pregame show. The Hyde experience is not cheap — it’s about $100 just to get in the door — but this is supposed to be over the top. You’re paying for the experience, and if you’re one of the many people in Miami for whom money seems to not be an object, it’s probably worth it to rub shoulders with VIPs and get the South Beach experience without even crossing a causeway.

Before long my food showed up, and as a foodie, I have to say I was impressed — some sort of a sushi roll with spicy tempura popcorn shrimp piled on top. This was food I wouldn’t be surprised to get at Nobu, not inside a stadium. And in the interest of in-depth journalism, I performed an in-depth investigation on about ninety-percent of the roll. My initial reaction was right on: It was delicious.

As you can see from the photos below, plenty of VIPs have been through Hyde. Forget taking your talents to South Beach — the South Beach experience is downtown now, inside, of all places, an NBA arena.

David Beckham1

Lenny Kravitz3


NBA Finals Game 3: What They’re Saying


ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — With the San Antonio Spurs blowing out the Miami Heat in Game 3, 113-77, behind 27 points from Danny Green and 24 from Gary Neal (who were a combined 13-19 on three-pointers), we thought we’d check in with some NBA players who were active on Twitter throughout the game…