The NBA Draft is one of my favorite days of the year and three years ago I talked my way into a dream assignment, covering the NBA Draft for True Hoop and ESPN.com. I had been talking to some of the True Hoop team about coming aboard as a writer, but the timing didn’t work out as just a month or so before the Washington Post committed to giving some steady work shooting concerts and I had to choose between the two. At that point I was much more interested in taking photos than I was in writing game recaps, so I had to pass on a great opportunity from EPSN. But! I was able to talk them into this assignment and it turned out to be an incredible day.
I met Henry Abbot from True Hoop the night before draft day at Steve Nash’s charity soccer game. We planned out the next day and I made sure I was early the next morning when I met him at the Four Seasons in midtown Manhattan. We were meeting up with Dan Fegan, John Wall’s agent, to see how he tackled draft day for his various clients. And here’s where the rub came in. We basically sat in the hotel lobby all day and watched him pitch clients like Avery Bradley to each and every GM that called, as well as entertaining guests like Sonny Vacarro, Howard Eisley, Al Harrington and more. Oh, and he ran through John Wall’s original contract with Reebok. As a wannabe-NBA GM and draftnik, I was in heaven. It was hard for me not to squeal each time a GM like Larry Bird or Danny Ainge called. I was checking Twitter every so often and relaying rumors, so it was kind of cool to be in the real loop with Fegan shooting down bogus info and confirming what was really going on.
Shooting this was a bit of a challenge, but luckily Henry was with me most of the day so we constantly talked about how he wanted to frame certain scenes and what he wanted from the photos. Luckily for me, Fegan wasn’t big on email, preferring the phone and hard copies of everything, giving me photo options other than “powerful agent staring at his phone.” Fegan also had a small team with him, so getting shots of him interacting with them (including former Bullet Mitchell Butler using one of the first iPads I had seen in real life) resulted in some good material. Fegan also showed us some of the marketing material he used during contract negotiations for his clients (see above).
After all the work in the hotel, the actual draft was a bit of a breeze. I finally got to meet John Wall and snagged a shot of him with his family (top photo) and just generally enjoyed having a media pass to an event I used to buy tickets to just so I could sit in the crowd and boo whoever the Knicks drafted. Fegan was nice enough to invite me to the post draft celebration at a swanky restaurant downtown so after I filed my last photos from the first round, I grabbed my camera and went down there for a bit. After a few drinks and some food, I got what I thought was a throwaway shot of Fegan playing chess with Sandro Varejao (Yes, Anderson’s brother). I happened to mention it when I called Henry to sign off for the night. He almost jumped through the phone. Fegan had given him an amazing quote that talked about his overall approach as an agent and how it related to chess and Henry thought that photo would really tie the piece together. So I went back to the draft (the second round was still going on) and filed a few more photos and finally called it a night. Total win. Be sure to read Henry’s piece on True Hoop for the full recap of the day.