Photog who shot LeBron James for Nike says LeBron showed up with masseuse, would not allow direct conversation
Dec 13, 2011, 10:03 AM EDT
LeBron James says he’s trying to rehabilitate his image — I would have opted for rehabilitating my post game, but that’s me — this season, as he told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in an interview last week. But also last week came this piece by in Sports Illustrated by photographer Walter Iooss Jr., in which he tells some great war stories about various famous athletes (don’t miss the one on Barry Bonds).
Also of particular note was his story of doing a photo shoot with LeBron.
I first photographed LeBron James in 2003, when he was a rookie in Cleveland. He was pretty raw as a teenager; he didn’t have any of the smoothed edges he has now. When I shot him six years later, in 2009, the difference was amazing. He walked in like a king that day, and he took over that room. And not only physically, although he was massive then. I’ve never seen an athlete look like that. He was muscular, charming, articulate, the prince of hoops. He couldn’t have been more of an ambassador for the game.
Times change, and sadly, LeBron became a villain to many after The Decision. I’ve seen a lot of entourages, but none like his. In July 2010 I got an assignment from Nike to shoot LeBron right after his TV special announcing his move to the Heat. We rented the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, where the Lakers and the Clippers used to play, and there were 53 people on my crew — including hair and makeup artists, production people, a stylist. I had $10,000 in Hollywood lighting. It was huge. When LeBron arrived, it was as if Nelson Mandela had come in. Six or seven blacked-out Escalades pulled up, a convoy. LeBron had bodyguards and his masseuse. His deejay was already there, blasting. This for a photo shoot that was going to last an hour, tops.
This is how crazy it was: I wasn’t even allowed to talk directly to LeBron. There was a liaison, someone from Amar’e Stoudemire’s family. I would say to him, “O.K., have LeBron drive right,” and then he’d turn to LeBron and say, “LeBron, go right.”
LeBron had guards in the portals on the mezzanine level, talking into their hands. Really, what was going to happen? And then at the end of the shoot they all got in the Escalades. My God, I’ve been around Michael Jordan, but with him nothing even came close to this. Unimaginable.
I know a guy who worked as a sound engineer who said that when he signed contracts to appear in concert, Van Morrison had a stipulation that no stage workers were allowed to make direct eye contact with him before the show. My friend always swore that was true, but I had my doubts. But the human ego is a funny thing, apparently. If you feed it too much, it grows to monstrous proportions, and can turn on you.
Good luck, LeBron, in your quest to regain some of your humanity.
The Education Of Walter Iooss Jr. [Sports Illustrated]
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