© 2014 Ashley Landis San Antonio Spurs Parade

2014 NBA Finals

Last week I shot the final game of the 2014 NBA Finals in San Antonio, followed by all of the celebration that came along with it, for European Pressphoto Agency.

(If you’re keeping track, I’m skipping Round 3 of the playoffs.  There’s way too much to talk about for the finals.)

The San Antonio Spurs took on the Miami Heat in the final round of the NBA playoffs and won the championship in game 5.

For just a moment, I’m going to break my professional demeanor and be a complete fan . . . IT WAS AWESOME!  I had so much fun!  I loved being a part of something that the world was watching.  I loved being one of the few who could bring images of that event to the world.  I loved every moment from the parking problems to champagne and sweat-soaked locker room.  It’s something that I never imagined I’d get the chance to cover, but there I was, standing between Kawhi Leonard as he held his MVP trophy and Tony Parker as he was photographed with the championship trophy.  Surreal.

Alright, now back to business.  Here’s the recap, plus photos.

Game 1 was hot.  Like 90 degrees inside hot.

About half way through the second quarter the chatter in the line up started.  (I was one of about a dozen photogs shooting from half way up the bleachers.)  “Is it hot in here?”  I honestly hadn’t thought about it until then.  By half time we learned that the AC wasn’t working.

During half time I retreated in to the tunnel below the stands, where it was slightly cooler, but came back up for the second half.  By then it was noticeably warm.  Near the end of the third quarter, an AT&T Center official said it was 88 degrees inside, warmer than the 84 degree temperature outside.

The temperature kept rising and fans took pity on us, bringing cups of ice and fanning us from their seats.  The Coyote brought out an electric fan.

LeBron James, Miami’s super star, went down hard, claiming muscle cramps due to the heat.

Meanwhile, the fans and photogs sweated it out.  I’m sure temperatures rose to nearly 100 degrees in the cheap seats at the top of the arena, but fans stayed for every second to watch the Spurs win.

At the end of the game I looked down.  It was so hot inside that the floor and the walls were sweating.  Condensation built up making for an impromptu concrete slip n’ slide.

Game 2 was a little rough.  The Spurs lost by two points in the final moments.

It’s that age-old post game quote – the Heat came to play and the Spurs didn’t.  That pretty much sums it up.

Game 3 and 4 were in Miami, so I had to watch the Spurs earn their second and third wins from home.  Those were decided, definite wins.

Game 5 was ripe with anticipation.  All of the media wanted it to end in Game 5 as much as the fans did.  One more win, and they wanted it to be at home.  It was also Fathers’ Day.

The EPA team got to the court around 2 p.m.  We got set up, called our fathers from the court where trophy presentation rehearsals were underway, ate dinner in the press dining room and hung out for a few hours before  the 7 p.m. game.

In the first quarter LaBron dominated.  The Heat was up by 16 points at one point during the first half.  We were so sure the Spurs would win in Game 5, but the first two quarters said otherwise.

By half time LaBron looked tired.  Even if he was the best player in the history of basketball, there’s no way he could have held up to a whole team of future hall of famers.

After half time it was clear that the Spurs would win.  Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard ran away with the ball and the celebration ensued.

I stood firm in my elevated spot at mid court, dodging cheering fans with their arms in the air and handing off memory cards to our designated runner, while confetti fell and press and family members rushed the court.  I’m not sure I took my eye off the viewfinder of the Nikon D4 I was using, for fear that I would miss something.

The championship trophy was presented, followed by the MVP trophy, which was given to Kawhi Leonard.

Tony and Tim had their moment, then it was time to run downstairs to the locker room.

In anticipation of the locker room, I taped a trash bag to my camera, just in case of any flying champagne.  I quickly grabbed that camera and ran to wait in line to get in.

After seeing the line, I was surprised that I got in at all, but much more surprised that the star players were still there.  The room wreaked of champagne, but I somehow avoided the spray.

I squeezed my way around the very full room and found Tony Parker holding the trophy, surrounded by media.  I reached my camera up, hoping for a hail mary shot of Tony with the trophy, when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

“Excuse me, can someone hand me my trophy?” Kawhi Leonard laughed.  Of course I let him through, camera in hand.

I stuck around for a few more minutes, but got out of there fairly quickly to transmit.  When I got back, I looked at the back of my camera.  I was completely disappointed.  Every shot I took in the locker room was soft.  The bag I had spent so much time rigging to protect the camera ended up getting stuck on the focus ring, rendering my auto focus useless.  *Sigh*  You win some, you lose some.

After the locker room experience and making sure all of our images were in, we went back to the court for a little fun.

During the playoffs, there’s a small group of photographers who get to be pretty close.  It’s really the most fun part of shooting sports.  Here’s a group of some of San Antonio’s usual suspects, and me, of course.

It was a blast covering the NBA playoffs, and I’ll miss all of these guys and the EPA guys (the group picture closer to the top of the post).

Game 5 was actually in the middle of the annual Texas Water Safari, of which I am the race photographer.  I spent the day before and a couple days after Game 5 waist deep in river water shooting boats as they passed through check points on the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers.  More about that in another post.

I returned to San Antonio last Wednesday for the Spurs parade and celebration.

The parade was scheduled for the River Walk and the celebration was a few hours later at the Alamodome.  I parked at the Alamodome and walked with my gear to the River Walk, which is about a mile.

A friend of mine scored me the best place possible to watch the parade.  There’s a little island in the river near the mall where the parade MC sits.  Most of the media was stationed at an amphitheater a few blocks away, but a few of us were allowed access to this little island.  It worked out perfectly.

Immediately after the parade, I ran back to the Alamodome.  Another mile, complete with camera gear.

I picked up my laptop from my car on the way and edited and transmitted the pictures from the parade before shooting the celebration.

I laid down for a moment to rest while my memory cards were downloading and my friend Tony caught me.

Right after the send button was hit, it was time to start the celebration.  All photographers were on risers at the back of a section of chairs on the floor.  That meant a long lens and lots of hands and cell phones to shoot through.

It was a short celebration that basically allowed for an extended introduction of players and another team photo.  Balloons fell from the ceiling and they called it a night.

With that, my Spurs coverage for the season was over.

I’m going through a little bit of withdrawal, but I’ll be okay.  If any Spurs players are reading this and just want to hang out, I’m down for that.  I might have to bring my camera, if that’s cool.  Yeah…  Maybe next year…

My game and celebration pictures ended up all over the place.  LA Times, Boston Globe, Good Morning America/Yahoo! News, Seattle Times, The Courant, The New York Times, Rappler, The National, The Boston Globe, and many more non-English newspapers and web sites.

Click here and search Ashley Landis to view all of my photos from the NBA Playoffs and other recent assignments for EPA.

5 Comments

  1. Posted June 25, 2014 at 10:43 pm | #

    It was so awesome to finally bump into you at a Spurs game. As much as both of us work games, how it never happened before is beyond me. I had the worst kind of luck ever. I scheduled a vacation months ago with some of my family before the playoffs even started. Turns out my flight was the night of Game 5, I couldn’t change it, and I got back the day after the parade. So after covering the team all these years, I missed the one thing I’ve been hoping to be there for lol. Luckily I had two other writers there to help cover it all for me. I actually watched up to the third quarter at a restaurant just outside my gate and then followed play by play on my phone after we boarded. It was crazy.

  2. Daniel Guerrero
    Posted June 26, 2014 at 12:50 am | #

    While my all time favorite Ashley Landis selfie pic did not make this post….I am still so very honored to call you my friend and to have followed your various photography experiences over these last few weeks. You are an amazing talent and an even more amazing person! I wish you all of the very best in your future success! Absolutely amazing shots!

  3. jp Thomas
    Posted June 27, 2014 at 12:26 pm | #

    Ashley ,wow I’am so happy for you ,can you feel my smile and tears of happiness ……So glad your getting the world wide recognition you deserve …your great Ashley.
    I keep thinking of you watching the world cup ..all the photographs on the side lines ,,,you would take better shots ..
    J.p.

  4. Posted June 27, 2014 at 1:47 pm | #

    It was great seeing you too Michael! I looked for you at Game 5, but I figured you were just busy. Oh well, next year, right? :-)

  5. Posted June 27, 2014 at 1:48 pm | #

    Aw, thanks Daniel! I love that shot too! So glad to call you my friend!

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