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Hoop Story #042: Reginald Thomas II - Team Photographer, San Antonio Spurs

Hoop Story #042: Reginald Thomas II - Team Photographer, San Antonio Spurs

What are your first memories of Basketball?

My father taught me how to play basketball in my backyard back home in Baltimore, Maryland, when I was five years old. “Right hand on the face, left hand on the ear. Follow through, all one motion.” 

We had a goal in my backyard with just dirt and rocks and my mother would watch me play from her bedroom window.

When I was younger I would walk to different courts and play pick-up, or go to different rec centers and play, AAU, different rec leagues, high school ball and everything else. As I got older I would go to different courts throughout the city to play, and once I started photography I’d take some time here and there to take photos as well.

Talk about your experience working for the Baltimore city paper and shooting high school Basketball?

When I was a senior at Norfolk State, I sat in my room late one night scrolling Twitter and saw that my high school, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, had won its first city championship. Up until that point, as far as athletics was concerned, we weren’t known for having a good basketball team. 

I interned with Baltimore City Paper the summer of 2015 and got hired as a staff photographer and writer after graduation the summer of 2016. That summer I went with one of my former classmates to an alumni open gym and approached head coach Sam Brand about wanting to document the season. He trusted me and believed in the idea. 

The editors at City Paper allowed me to focus on the season and it was pretty much the only thing I worked on for eight months. We ended up winning our first state championship in school history and it was also my first ever cover story. 

Beyond the basketball itself, it was a blessing to be able to go back to my high school and spend time with the team. The coaching staff treated me like family. Watching the guys and girls throughout the season, as an alumnus of the school, was such a cool experience. I’ll never forget the time I was able to be there with them.

You documented the Red Sox when they won the world series in 2018. What were some highlights of that experience?

Being blessed with the chance to work for the most storied franchise in baseball was huge. I was able to learn and grow so much under our team photographer Billie Weiss for two seasons. I learned how to be a better photographer and visual storyteller, and was encouraged to continue to be myself and refine my personal style and voice. 

Some of the biggest lessons weren’t even about making photos. I learned a lot about dynamic leadership from Billie (and Matt Thomas, who’s now the team photographer for the San Diego Padres) and knowing how to support, encourage, and challenge each person on your team as everyone’s needs are different. 

I started to develop a business acumen. I learned about the importance of planning, and other skills you need to be a good team photographer aside from knowing how to take photos. Being able to document and win a world series championship during my first year as an intern is something I never thought I’d experience. I’ll never forget it.

You’ve now been with the San Antonio Spurs for two seasons. Talk about your workflow and how you have changed your courtside editing process?

Right now, I’m trying my best to refine the workflow I have been including finding time to have the back-end editing done by the end of a game. During my first season, I would just get stuff out to social and our players and then caption, keyword and file at the end of the night. 

This season I’ve been editing photos, sending to our social media team and our players and staff, captioning, keywording, renaming files to be neat and consistent, and having my take for the night completed and ready to be filed by the end of the game before shooting anything that may be happening post-game. That time adds up and it’s definitely helped this season.

What have you enjoyed most about being a team photographer?

What I enjoy most about being the team photographer here with the Spurs is just being able to document things happening off the court and behind the scenes. 

Having the privilege of documenting quiet moments really fills the time between game action. It gives the Spurs family an added layer and gets closer to telling the complete story of our players, coaches and staff and the relationships we have with each other.

You developed a scholarship program at the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute Men’s Varsity Basketball team. What inspired you to do that and what is your advice for the next generation of hoopers?

When I was playing basketball, my father always encouraged me to continue to cultivate other interests. When I was at Poly, I let Coach Sam know that if my dream of becoming a team photographer came true, that I wanted to use part of my salary to establish something for the team to help their development off the floor. 

After getting hired by the Spurs, Coach Sam and I worked with our school’s foundation to develop a fund that’s geared towards personal development that seeks to assist graduating seniors on Poly’s varsity basketball team in the first year of their undergraduate education. 

Each year a graduating senior who is attending college but not on an athletic scholarship is awarded $1000 to help with tuition, books, or housing.The money can also be used to invest in some form of personal or professional development as a way to encourage and support their matriculation through higher education or some sort of vocational training. 

So if someone wants to buy a camera or say, the tools needed to start customizing shoes, that's what we want to help them with. There’s also a crowdfunding element to it. Each donation is put towards providing mental health resources for students in the program. I hope that as time goes on, that we can expand the effort to support more programs at the school. 

 

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