The NBA is known to be one of the most organized and savvy organizations in the world when it comes to media relations and coverage. They attract hundreds of TV stations from around the world, they get online and print coverage in the most remote countries and millions of people follow the league on a daily basis during the season. Getting access to photograph NBA games was always a hard task because of the high demand, even if shooting for a major outlet. But now the NBA announced few changes that will make it even harder for photographers to work and cover the games.
As a sports photographer, I had a chance to work many times with the league and cover regular season games as well as NBA Finals and the All-Star games. From my own experience, I can truly say this is probably the best sports organization for anything related to the way they handle photography and media in general - from communications ahead of each event, to the hospitality and the order on the court. Even when having large amount of photographers and TV crews on the sideline, it is always very organized and under control.
But after few incidents and injuries of NBA players in past years, the NBA decided to cut down the amount of photographers they allow on the court by 50% - from 40 in 2011 to 20 in the upcoming season. This means half of the basketball photographers who covered the league for years won't be able to come back and do their job- at least not from the floor level.
The decision came after 4 years of investigation led by officials at the NBA, and it was ruled that the fact many photographers sit right next to the sideline causes too many unnecessary injuries - some worse than others. That's why it was decided to allow only 20 photographers at each game, and was also decided to split them between all four sides (many arenas currently let photographers sit on only two sides). This change will allow the league to have larger safety zone around the basket and will allow players to land freely with no worries of hurting anyone.
The NBA is expanding the area that must be clear behind the basket and cutting the number of photographers along the baseline in an effort to improve player safety.
The new regulations, calling for an extra foot of open space on both sides of the basket stanchion, were sent to teams Tuesday by league president of operations Rod Thorn and executive vice president of team marketing and business operations Amy Brooks in a memo that was obtained by The Associated Press.
Only 20 camera positions, 10 on each baseline, will remain, down from 24 last season and 40 during the 2010-11 regular season. Each baseline can have six photo spots on one side of the basket and four on the other, and dance teams or other entertainers cannot be stationed along the baseline.
The "escape lanes," the unoccupied area on either side of the stanchion to the closest photographer spot, will increase from 3 to 4 feet.
This is for sure a drastic move that is putting safety over money and coverage. This will hurt many photographers across the country, but the NBA want to avoid horrible injuries such as the one Paul George experienced lately [Warning: HARD TO WATCH], even if it means they will lose coverage by doing so.
To read more about the decision, read the official statement on NBA.com