Behind the scenes at NBA’s Rookie Photo Shoot

Pistons rookie Jaden Ivey photographed by Brian Babineau at the 2022 Rookie Photoshoot.

In July 2013, young and skinny Giannis Antetokounmpo had just entered his first NBA Summer League after being drafted 15th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks. Prior to appearing in his first NBA game, Antetokounmpo wore an official Bucks uniform for the first time in the NBA’s annual Rookie Photo Shoot.

Celtics team photographer Brian “Babs” Babineaux has been involved with this shoot since 2012 and recalls capturing the current Kia NBA MVP and young pre-champion Antetokounmpo.

Giannis Antetokounmpo at the 2013 rookie photo shoot.

“They haven’t proven anything yet when they’re taking pictures of these kids,” Babineau said. “They haven’t even been to an NBA game yet. Just seeing how much he’s grown as a person and as a superstar, it’s nice to know that you’ve been on the journey with him since day one.”

The 2022 Rookie class is gearing up for preseason just as the young Giannis did in 2013. The class was officially photographed in July at the Rookie Photo Shoot held during Summer League in conjunction with the NBA’s Rookie Training Program. They join a long roster of newcomers who have been involved in filming since its inception in 1994.

The longevity and success of the shoot is largely due to NBA Vice President of Photography Joe Amati. Joe Amati has managed all aspects of the shoot since his inception in 1994. He calls himself an “air traffic controller” between the various stations of the players, staff and chutes.

Amati recalls the first shoot in ’94 when Grant Hill and Jason Kidd were rookies. NBA Photo This started because his team wanted to photograph players in NBA uniforms ahead of his team media day in the fall. The shoot accompanied a rookie training program in which the NBA had already recruited rookies in various locations around the country prior to the season.

“The first ever shoot was in Florida,” said Amati. “I remember going to Florida for a program in Orlando that year and looking for a college gymnasium where he needed a basketball court.

Damian Lillard at the 2012 NBA Rookie Photoshoot.

Previously, the primary motivation for the shoot was to obtain new photos of the rookies in team uniforms for the league’s trading card partners (right now owned exclusively by Panini).

Ken Seitel, who manages the NBA’s partnership with Panini, said the rookie card is one of the best performing in the trading card business and is treasured by players as a memento ahead of its first NBA season. I’m here.

“Panini does what they call a ‘next day card’ where they take pictures of all 40 newcomers early in the day and create a card to be signed by the newcomers. Panini sells some of them. But we also give each newcomer their own card on the same day.

The early photo date also allows the league and media to capture preview rookie photos before the season begins.

Rookie Jason Tatum photographed by Babineau in 2017.

“These photos were in demand,” said Amati.

According to Amati, there have been many changes from the first shoot in ’94 to this year’s shoot in 2022. First, the shoot and the Rookie Transition Program are now part of the Las Vegas Summer League. In addition, filming began as photography where players moved between different stations to take portraits and simulated game photos.

“The great thing now is that everything is digital, so we can deliver it instantly,” said Amati. “We are getting player photos very soon for our player channels, our player teams, and our own accounts. This is a tremendous content opportunity for everyone involved.” changed to.”

Filming is planned for the entire year. But for Amati, he mostly starts to focus on it after the Finals, when another rookie class is about to get him into the NBA by being drafted.

Zion Williamson shot by Babineaux in 2019.

“We now have a blueprint for how we’re going to attack the event,” said Amati. “For me, it’s really important to do everything I can to get talented people to perform at their best. We are confident that we can predict whether

One of the many talented people Amati looks forward to working with each year is Babineaux. Amati said he comes to him every year with new and unique ideas on how to get players.

“The first year I did the shoot, I shot guys coming out of the smoke with smoke that matched the colors of the team,” Babineau said. “People loved it. Now. So every year I hear the same people asking me, ‘What is Babs going to do this year?’ or ‘How is he going to come out on top next year?

For this year’s shoot, Babineau came up with the idea of ​​using double and triple exposures of players to mock the action of the game. The end result was either the newcomer looked like he was dunking himself, or it looked like he had three in one photo.

Milwaukee Bucks rookie Mahjong Beauchamp. Photographed by Babineaux at the 2022 Rookie Photo Shoot.

“It’s very difficult to impress yourself,” Babineau laughed. “When I see something that impresses me, it’s the best feeling to go and show it to a player. At least 15 times this year, he showed me the back of the camera and said, ‘How did you do that? I was asked. or “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

“We live in a world now where it’s all about publishing pictures of yourself on social media. It’s so cool to be able to take pictures of them in uniform for the first time as newcomers. This is for them.” It’s a whole new world and it should be incredibly exciting.”

Kobe Bryant during the 1996 NBA Rookie photo shoot.

Babineau, Amati, and Seitel have special memories with the various rookie shooters they have each experienced. Amati recalls special memories of shooting Kobe Bryant in 1996.

“Kobe broke his wrist at the time of filming, so most of the pictures of him jumping show his black cast, even though we try to hide it,” Amati said.

Babineau said some of his favorite recent memories include filming Zion Williamson in 2019 and Jason Tatum in 2017.

“Zion was amazing. I couldn’t believe how big and fast he was,” he said. “When we shot Jason Tatum as a newcomer, we had the feeling that he was going pro right away.”

With Summer League and Media Days over, it’s time for the rookies to officially begin their first NBA season.

“I like to look around the room and think, ‘Who’s the missing man?’ Reminds me of Tony Parker. Reminds me of Manu Ginobili. Reminds me of Jason Williams. They’re Breakout Hall of Fame players who were originally an afterthought,” said Amati.

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