Through the Lens with Barry Gossage: Capturing Basketball History
Twenty-four seasons with the Phoenix Suns and 31 years in the NBA, Barry Gossage has witnessed some of the most historic sporting events of all-time through his lens. From the NBA Finals to legend’s last games, Gossage has captured memories that will live on forever through his iconic photographs.
After already shooting in the NBA for seven years, Gossage joined on as the Suns team photographer in 1996 (along with another Phoenix legend in Steve Nash). Transitioning from Nash to Devin Booker, Gossage has played a critical role in capturing the legacy and history of the Phoenix Suns organization.
Below are some of his most iconic and personal favorite photographs that he has captured along his NBA journey accompanied by his behind-the-scenes commentary of what made the shots so special.
JUNE 7, 1996: NBA FINALS GAME 2 – MICHAEL JORDAN
So I was lucky enough to be one of the photographers for that Finals. Game 1, Bulls won. Game 2 is when I got that picture. It's kind of the same for the photographers as being our Finals because all the top photographers are there and I was lucky enough to be considered one of the top photographers then. So, I was sitting next to one of the Sports Illustrated photographers. All the NBA photographers are there, that are lucky enough to be shooting. And no, I did not have any idea that it was going to be the cover.
Jordan always had a way of when he got contact he would usually hesitate one way or the other. And that's what he did. He came in, he drove and he jumped into Sam Perkins and he went this way with the ball. And that's when I shot the picture. So, he's got a great expression, great face.
I didn't find out it was a cover until it was either Game 3 or 4 in Seattle. All of us were out in Seattle and playing pool and he called me up and he's like, 'Hey, what are you doing?' I'm like, 'Oh, we're playing pool.' He's like, 'I got some information for you. You got to cover of SI'. And I was obviously very excited about that. I've had four covers, but that was the best one because it was kind of like our Finals for the photographers as well because we were all there and I was the one that got picked. So, it was very cool.
JUNE 16, 1996: NBA FINALS GAME 6 – MICHAEL JORDAN
It was Game Six. It was a closeout game for the series and they asked me to go into the locker room before the game was over. It was me, the only photographer there, and a video guy from NBC. It wasn't until recently this year that I guess the shoes he's wearing were one of the iconic shoes. So, this picture came back up and it has been posted on Instagram and people are calling me to interview me and stuff and asking me about what was going on. It was kind of weird because I was like, 'I really haven't thought about this since then.'.
So, I was in there, the video guy was in there and we're watching the game on the TV. We see what's going on and we see the Bulls win. Normally, we all know that especially in a home series, players stay on the floor. They're celebrating out there. He did some of that, but incomes Jordan.
He's got the ball and he comes in and he's got a hat on and he's getting an emotional. He just literally lays down on the floor with the ball and I took like two or three pictures and that was it. Then I just let him be because he obviously came in there to be alone. When you're in that situation, you're just working. We're there to do the job. Then it wasn't until like this year I realized it was Father's Day. He was emotional. He was missing his dad. So, I just gave him space as soon as I realized he came in here to be alone. He wanted to get away from everything and just have a couple moments to himself.
JANUARY 6, 2010: PHOENIX SUNS HUDDLE – STEVE NASH
Steve got drafted the first year I came here. So, I knew him for a long time, obviously. So, every time he came into town he had to always come and say hi to me and when he came back, I was pretty excited. He was always very giving. He's very media savvy as well, but that wasn't media. He just saw me and though it'd be fun. It's one of my favorite pictures that I've ever taken, as far as for the Suns, because it was organic.
Every year, the new team gets together and they figure out something they're going to do for their pregame huddle. Like this year it's Kelly dancing, the most pit. So that year, they'd all do this and then they come in. Steve just looked over and he pointed at me and made the face. I snapped and I go, that is awesome. That was digital and I saw it right away, so I knew I got it. But it was very cool that he did it. I actually printed it out for him and gave it to him and told him thank you. It's one of my favorite pictures that I've ever taken.
I call it a perfect picture. I take, I don't know how many pictures a year, but a lot. People ask, 'Oh, how many perfect pictures do you take into the game?' I go, 'Very rarely do I consider anything a perfect picture.' Somebody has a weird expression, somebody's eyes are closed, this, that and the other. It's very rare to get a perfect picture, especially with the amount of people that are involved in a basketball game situation; referees and other players and this, that and the other. So when you get something where you're able to hit the reaction, the motion and stop it like that. You look at it and you go, 'There's nothing I would change in that picture.' That's one of those pictures where there's nothing I would change about that photograph.
APRIL 25, 2012: STEVE NASH’S FINAL GAME IN PHOENIX
We all knew that it was probably going to be Steve's last year here in Phoenix. There had been a lot of the discussion over that. We all prepped with the ideas of what possibly could happen during the game. I knew that I wanted to get something that signified that it was Steve's last game or leaving the court or something like that. There was a couple of other pictures on the floor, but this one definitely said [that]. Fans everywhere, all around the outside of the frame. Then a lot of the media guys that we know are in the tunnel as well, taking the pictures That's actually one of those pictures, too, that I consider a perfect picture. Some guys are trying to get out of the way. Some guys are trying to get the picture and all the fans are there and it's like Steve just leaving the court.
MARCH 23, 2016: KOBE BRYANT’S FINAL GAME IN PHOENIX WITH DEVIN BOOKER
I wanted to find Kobe. He was probably going to come around and talk to some of the guys and stuff like that. He did. Then Book came up and they talked to each other for probably a good 15-20 seconds. Then when they backed out, Kobe said something funny and they both laughed. That's the picture I got. The funny thing is, my strobes, I can only shoot one picture every three seconds. I had shot a picture before that and my strobes hadn't fully recycled. So, when I took it, I didn't get the full exposure on it, but I got enough. It actually turned out better because the lighting's more dramatic on it and it is one of my favorite pictures. Obviously after this this year, It became a little bit more meaningful. That's the game that Kobe gave book the shoes that said 'Be Legendary.'
MAY 1, 1997: NBA PLAYOFFS – REX CHAPMAN
The cool thing about that photo is it was obviously a big shot to tie the game, but what I like about that picture most is the fans in the background. Everybody's standing, everybody's super engaged in what's going on. When people see that photo, they know that Rex his that shot. That's the cool part about it.
SEPTEMBER 11, 2007: WNBA FINALS GAME 3 – DIANA TAURASI
I've been lucky to shoot every game that she's played here in Phoenix and took her first pictures when she was drafted. Me and her have an incredible relationship with each other as far as a friendship as well. Every time I see her, she comes up and gives a big hug. I give her a big hug. She asks me how my kids are doing. I've been lucky enough to photograph her whole career in the WNBA.
But the thing is, those moments don't happen every game. You're looking for them, but it's rarer than people making shots and stuff like that because that kind of emotion doesn't come out just because they made a shot. That's because they made a shot to tie a game, win a game, push it overtime, win in overtime. So, you have to look for it and pay attention to the game going on and be involved in the story of the game at the same time. That's the fun part about it is trying to stay engaged in what's going on with the game and still do your job.