Saturday, March 29, 2008

#9 - Centers of Attention

Basketball is like war in that offensive weapons are developed first, and it always takes a while for the defense to catch up. -Red Auerbach

Hardwood, paint, post -- the vocabulary of March. Spring yardwork, perhaps? Maybe . . . but add madness, playoffs, and roundball to the mix and you'll uncover the true meaning of the month: basketball!

For most of the nation, the NCAA Tournament takes center court, but as a former NBA photographer, I equate March with a long season's end and the stretch run to the never ending playoffs.

Before Y2K it seems, successful playoff teams all had dominant centers - some had two - Ewing, Robinson, and the Twin Towers of Olajuwon and Sampson, to name a few. It didn't matter if they were covered man to man or in a zone defensive scheme, these players drew the lion's share of attention.

Saavy sports photographers always focused on them too, filling their viewfinders with the Big Men on both ends of the floor. Whether it was from the opposite baseline, overhead from the arena's catwalk, at halfcourt, or near the bench, I'd love to isolate the "Five's" in my camera with a long lens (naturally!).

But it's been over ten years since I last photographed an NBA contest, and I'm left to wonder where have all these pivotal "men in the middle" gone? Historically, NBA regular season games score poor TV ratings, and recently even the playoffs and finals are failing to attract viewers too. I guess without these Centers of Attention, is it any surprise March means Madness to basketball fans now.

If the NBA were on channel 5 and a bunch of frogs making love was on channel 4, I'd watch the frogs even if they were coming in fuzzy. -Bobby Knight