Hoop Story #033: Nathaniel Butler, NBA Photographer

Hoop Story #033: Nathaniel Butler, NBA Photographer

When did you first fall in love with basketball? 

I fell in love with basketball as a child playing in my backyard and that love for the game continues today.

Talk about your college experience at St. Johns , what was so special about hanging out in the gym with guys like Marc Jackson and Chris Mullen?

It was a magical time to be at St.John’s in the early to mid 1980’s. The program was at its highest point with players like Chris and Mark and Coach Carnesecca.  The Big East ruled college basketball during that time period. In 1985- 3 out of 4 teams in the Final Four were all from the Big East Conference.

How did you become an apprentice at Sports Illustrated? What did that do for your career? 

During my time at St. John’s I kept running into photographers from Sports Illustrated at big games at Madison Square Garden.  I was the naive college kid shooting for the school newspaper but got to know a few of the legendary photographers at Sports Illustrated and they kind of took me under their wing. Working with the likes of Manny Millan and Walter Iooss just to name a few was the greatest learning experience I could have ever asked for.  

Describe your first project with the NBA & what did you enjoy most working alongside Andy Bernstein, under David Stern. 

So many great memories over 30 plus years! I have literally traveled the world over for NBA events and games. From Basketball Without Borders trips to Africa to NBA Finals in the Bubble this past year. Andy and I have been there for all of it.

You had the opportunity to document The 92 Dream Team, which you describe as “Crazy” , what was so incredible about that team?

It was without a doubt the greatest team ever assembled. NBA basketball was beginning to explode worldwide and the star power and personalities on that ‘92 team were amazing to be around.  It was like traveling with the Beatles wherever we went.  It was truly an honor to document such a historic time.

You shot the entire Bulls Era, and then recently watching the Last Dance with your kids, how special was that to relive those moments together? 

I, along with the entire world, was watching and enjoying every second of it.  Being able to relive those moments by watching with my family was truly special.  It brought back so many great memories from that special time.

What are you most grateful for, having been around the game for 30 + years?

I am most grateful for the people and friendships I have made throughout the years. The NBA has been at the forefront of so many things over the years through NBA Cares and various social justice programs that I am proud to be involved with such a great organization.

What do you look forward to most with this season and the future of the league?  

Thinking about the future is what keeps us all moving forward!  

2020 was a terrible year with a worldwide pandemic, and the continuation of social injustices and yet the NBA and the WNBA and its players were all leading the way in demanding change.  We all have a lot of work to do both on and off the court. 

The future of the NBA / WNBA is bright!

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