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Hoop Story #037: Alex Subers, Photography/Digital Asset Manager for Philadelphia 76ers

Hoop Story #037: Alex Subers, Photography/Digital Asset Manager for Philadelphia 76ers

When did you start shooting? How have things changed in the basketball photography world since then?

I first started with a camera in my hands when I was skateboarding as a kid. I broke my collarbone, but wanted to keep going out with the crew, so I just started taking photos since I couldn’t skate. It wasn’t until college that I really started taking photography seriously. I worked for the school newspaper my sophomore and junior years and then by senior year I was working directly with the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team. 

It’s pretty cool to see how far the basketball content world has come since I started shooting at Rhode Island. Five or six years ago, NBA teams had maybe three or four people on their content staff, and most teams didn’t have a photographer, they would just use the NBA/Getty photos. 

Now, every team in the league has a fully built out content production team. I credit most of that jump to social media and how important content has become in terms of sponsorships and driving revenue.

 Philadelphia 76ers photographer Alex Subers stands with NBA player Ben Simmons

Talk about your experience working for the Rhode Island, Temple and St. Joe's teams.

Working for Rhode Island’s men’s basketball  team was where my love of basketball photography began.

I tried shooting other school sports, but there was something about basketball that drew me in. The culture, the hype around it, how close everyone is to the court; there’s nothing else like it. The team was the best it had been in probably 15 years, so it was a really exciting time, and I loved capturing all of it. 

When I moved back to Philly after graduation, I wanted to keep shooting basketball and meeting people within the industry, so I started shooting Temple and Saint Joseph’s basketball games after work for free. It was just something I wanted to do to build my portfolio and connections.

Joel Embiid Philadelphia 76ers

How did you get started with the Philadelphia 76ers?

I got my start with the 76ers after I was able to get a credential for a game during the 2015-2016 season. 

I saw what the 76ers were building at the time, and I knew it was a perfect chance to get my foot in the door. I went for free, and sent the team all my photos after the game. They liked the photos, and ended up asking me to shoot a few more games. Things snowballed, which led to me getting my first paid job shooting Ben Simmons’ first day in Philly the day after the draft. 

Ben Simmons Philadelphia 76ers

What’s the off-season like for you? What excites you most about working with a player like Ben Simmons?

The off-season is a busy time for me. I work for the team, so I spend about half of my time around Philly; whether it’s shooting rookie portraits, press conferences, events, etc. 

My summers with the 76ers also consist of documenting Ben’s off-season. We’ve been doing it for the last 3 summers, and it’s probably my favorite part of my job. The 2019 summer we made a documentary, covering everything from his training, traveling to Australia, relaxing at the house, and going to appearances. 

I love being able to make fans feel connected by giving them an inside look at his life and his personality. 

Ben Simmons Alex Stubers Philadelphia 76ers in Australia

What is game day like for you? How has it changed with the pandemic?

A typical game day is pretty hectic. I usually get to the arena at 2:30 p.m. and shoot walk-in photos for the first hour. 

From about 4:00 p.m. until game time, I focus on shooting player warm ups, concourse activations, sponsorship needs, pre-game events, and whatever else might be going on. Once the game starts, things settle down a little and I can typically focus on the game, with the occasional trip up to a suite to capture some photos of Iverson or Dr. J meeting with fans. After the game ends, I remain at the arena editing photos until about midnight. 

Game days have drastically changed because of the pandemic. Of course, the NBA has strict health and safety protocols, which I'm grateful for, so I've got to undergo COVID testing in the days leading up to each game. Because there’s no fans [prior to March 14], my nightly shot list has been boiled down to essentially just capturing what’s happening on the court. It’s made my game day less hectic, but it’s also limited me in what I can capture.

My favorite thing as a photographer is capturing behind the scenes moments, the things fans don't get to see: quiet moments in the locker room, the team huddling before heading out onto the court, or close up detail shots of the players. However, because of the restrictions, I don’t have the same access I used to, so I’m stuck with only shooting what’s happening on the court.

Philadelphia 76er Joel Embiid walks down the tunnel to the basketball court as fans reach over railing to give him high fives.

Talk about the uniform shoots. What were some highlights of the City Edition shoot in 2017-18 and the Classic Edition in 2019-20?

The City Edition campaigns are where our marketing department gets to flex its muscles. It’s definitely our favorite project of the year. There is kind of this unspoken competition between all the teams in the league to see who can have the best uniform roll out. 

The ‘17-18 City Edition campaign was our biggest and probably the most fun to shoot, especially as a Philadelphia native. The uniform was inspired by Rocky’s grey sweatsuit that he trains in, so we shot players in the iconic Rocky spots throughout Philly. My favorite part of this shoot was shooting Ben in Front St. Gym, which I honestly don't think has been changed since they shot the Rocky movies. It felt like taking  a step back in time. 

The Classic Edition shoot from 2019-2020 is probably my favorite after seeing the whole campaign put together. We did the shoot in Los Angeles, and while it was a logistical nightmare getting the car,I think it’s up there as our marketing team’s best work. The overall treatment put together by our design team is unmatched, and I love how the uniform and photos feed into it. We drew inspiration from a Wilt Chamberlain Volkswagen Beetle ad done in 1979. It was a really fun shoot, and Ben was super into it being the car guy he is, so we ended up shooting for a good hour. I think there’s about 30 unused photos from that shoot. 

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons stand next to classic american muscle car
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