(Editor’s Note: While we cover the NBA as obsessively as we can around here, there are still numerous ancillary parts of the game experience that we want to uncover and explore. Being involved with the NBA can mean everything from serving up exotic foods to firing shirts into the crowd. We will delve into these angles of the NBA as part of a new regular (and perhaps a bit irregular) All Ball series, NBA Behind The Scenes.)
BROOKLYN — It was 3:30 on Monday afternoon in Brooklyn, four hours before the Brooklyn Nets would play host to the Portland Trail Blazers. The interior hallways of the Barclays Center were mostly deserted, save for a few food service employees firing up ovens and custodial staff giving the place a final shine before thousands of fans arrived. Out on the arena floor, a rec league championship game was taking place.
Sitting in a folding chair just below one of the baskets was a man in a black polo shirt and jeans, working at a determined pace. He wasn’t tall, wasn’t short, and his blond hair made determining his age require more than a glance. He tore black gaffers tape into strips and secured loose wires that were splayed all over the place — to the basket support, from the basket support, along the cement arena floor, on the edge of the court. Three large hard plastic containers were open on the floor around him, all neatly packed with lenses, cameras, tripods and various other equipment. A hand truck was just behind, waiting to be loaded up and rolled away.
The man’s assistant turned up, carrying several camera batteries, which were checked and rechecked, and some were swapped out for more potent options. Words like “reflectors” and “overheads” were used casually between the two men in conversation. A ladder was propped up under a backboard, and a multi-thousand dollar camera was affixed to the glass and carefully aimed out toward the paint.
I had come to Brooklyn to meet up with Nathaniel S. Butler, who is a photographer for NBA Photos, and has been chronicling the NBA in pictures for about two decades now. You may not know Nat Butler’s name, but if you’re an NBA fan, you almost definitely know his work. Like perhaps this image …