Yes. Yes, it would...and that is precisely what happened.
A little back story. I have two older brothers, Mark and Ian, who know how to push my buttons. Ian especially. Wait, now I went too far back.
One of my assigning editors emailed me late last week to put me on a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kobe Bryant could surpass Michael Jordan on the all-time scorers list either Friday in San Antonio or Sunday in Minnesota. I paid close attention Friday night to see if the pressure was off of me because Bryant had an incredible night where he scored the 38 points he needed to pass Jordan in one game. He did not.
Now I needed to plan for an unpredictable situation. Would it be a jumper through traffic? A lay up with his back to me? I woke up in the middle of the night in a panic after a nightmare scenario played out in my dream. What if it didn't happen until the second half and therefore he was on the opposite end of the court from my assigned seat? Crap.
Now back to that brother of mine – Ian. We talked on the phone Saturday. I told him I had the "Kobe Game" to cover and all the nightmare scenarios I could think of that would not yield an image. After rambling for a while, Ian piped in, "Wouldn't it suck if he got it on free throws at the other end of the court?" Words escaped me. I muttered nonsensical words and sounds for a while. Free throws. I had forgotten about free throws. Now to go through even more horrible potential scenarios in my head to figure out how I would cover those.
Finally Sunday arrived. On my way to the arena I repeatedly had to tell myself to stop thinking. I knew when I overthink, it shows in my photos. I arrived over two hours early, set up my stuff and checked the seating chart. Wait. Why was I on the opposite side of the court from where I normally sit? The Lakers basket was the other end of the court from me now in the first half and Bryant only had eight more points to go. No. No. No. No. NO. I talked to the media contact. All the other photographers had sent in requests for that baseline the previous week and there was no room for me. Okay. Time to troubleshoot. Where else can I shoot from? Up on the concourse? I went up there to scout it out. It could work, not my favorite, but it could if I had to. There was talk of a couple spots to shoot from in a section just off the court, but no one seemed certain where they were. I went up stairs, down stairs, around the arena. Finally I spotted them. Three rows up, just past the baseline. A quick conversation with the media contact at the Timberwolves confirmed these were the shooting positions. The main issue there was what would happen if the fans in front stood up. A risk I had to take.
During all this running around to find a place to shoot from for the first half, something amazing happened - I finally stopped thinking about the how. How was Kobe Bryant going to score his eighth point of the game. I had no idea, but I knew most likely where I would be shooting it from. I got my gear together, including my laptop, and went to my spot. Because I was no longer on the baseline, I would be able to send images immediately following the milestone from my position. Huge bonus.
Bryant did not play well to start the game. He seemed nervous. As if the moment had gotten to him. I actually thought he might not have the eight points he needed to pass Jordan by halftime. And then all of my panic and laps of the arena because of shooting positions would have been moot. He sat on the bench for a while and when he returned, he was back. The nerves from earlier had vanished.
Not long after it happen. Zach Lavine fouled Kobe Bryant. He had six points already. One free throw ties Jordan. Two free throws and he becomes the third all-time scorer in the NBA. Crap. I took a deep breath and told myself, "Now is when you trust your instincts, Hannah." And so I did.
I went tight for the first free throw, utilizing my 400mm.
I realized quickly I needed to go loose for the second. I needed to give a sense of scene to it. I grabbed my second body with my 70-200mm off my shoulder.
There it was. "Wouldn't it suck if he got it on free throws at the other end of the court?" Yes it would have - if I was not prepared for it.
Another bonus of that raised position? I was above most of the people that walked onto the court during a short break to honor Bryant.
And that helped - a lot.
Congrats Kobe on making your 32,293rd career point on a free throw. It was an honor to cover, even if I did gain a few more grey hairs in the process.