BEHIND THE LENS, PART ONE: HOW NBA PHOTOGRAPHER CHRIS COVATTA CAME FROM A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY TO THE AUSTIN SPURS

Official Release | May 29, 2020

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” That’s when Austin Spurs photographer Chris Covatta said his career in photography started.

After graduating from college with a sociology degree in 1972, Covatta said he didn’t have a clue what he wanted to do, so he started off working in public relations for United Way. The nonprofit allowed him to shoot events, and his love for photography began to grow stronger.

Covatta said he decided to take a leap when he took on a position as a photographer for The Daily Enterprise in Paris, Kentucky, where he shot sports, news and features. He had the opportunity to cover the University of Kentucky’s basketball and football teams, as well as local high school sports. From there, he joined the photo staff at The Pantagraph in Bloomington, Illinois, and later headed to Springfield, Illinois, to cover the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Cardinals for The State Journal-Register.

Covatta’s interest in shooting sports “really began to flourish” when he joined the photo team of The Orange County Register in Santa Ana, California. He became the newspaper’s lead photographer, covering the Los Angeles Lakers, in addition to shooting the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Rams, UCLA and USC.

At what Covatta said was the “perfect time to become a sports photographer,” he decided to leave The Orange County Register to take on a new role as chief photographer for The National Sports Daily in Los Angeles. Although the newspaper only lasted 16 months, Covatta said it was the “perfect jumping off point to become a freelance photographer.” Shooting all the major sports as a freelancer led to his contract with the NBA and his 15 seasons (so far) with the Austin Spurs.

From day one of the then Austin Toros, to this year’s 15th anniversary season, Covatta has been on the sidelines capturing images of the team.

When trying to think of his favorite memory from his time with the Austin Spurs, Covatta said, “Wow, after 15 years, it’s been a bit of a blur,” but the drive of G League players stands out to him as something special.

“The players in the G League are very intense since these kids want to get to the NBA,” Covatta said. “They crash the boards, dive for balls, show a lot of emotion. It’s a joy to shoot and get great action and lots of emotion.”

Covatta said some of the best moments he has captured for the Austin Spurs have been from the playoffs.

“Since both of the Spurs’ championships came on the road, the next best thing was the Western Conference Finals,” Covatta said. “The kids holding up the trophy with so much excitement does the trick for me.”

Although Covatta said he could name many players that have “made great pictures” throughout his 15 seasons with the team, a recent one that stands out to him is San Antonio Spurs assignee Chimezie Metu, especially because of his facial expressions and great intensity when he dunks.

CEDAR PARK, TX – NOVEMBER 17: Chimezie Metu #7 of the Austin Spurs reacts after he slam dunks against the Stockton Kings during a NBA G League game on November 17, 2019 at the H-E-B Center At Cedar Park in Cedar Park, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Chris Covatta/NBAE via Getty Images)

One of Covatta’s favorite photos he has taken is of former Austin Spurs player Cory Joseph, a wide shot from floor level of Joseph leaping high in the air between two looming defenders as he is throwing a no-look pass.

CEDAR PARK, TX – DECEMBER 18: Cory Joseph passes the ball against the Texas Legends at the Austin Toros on December 18, 2012 at the Cedar Park Center in Cedar Park, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Chris Covatta/NBAE via Getty Images)

Being a sports photographer has given Covatta access to so many games and big events, which he said is his favorite part of the job. He has covered the NBA Finals, Super Bowl, World Series and World Cup, among others. He said knowledge of the teams and the players is a must, and he has learned where to point the lens for certain game situations.

Covatta first wanted to become a sports photographer because it’s a “great physical and mental challenge where you have to anticipate what’s going to happen next,” and he still enjoys that challenge to this day.

“Every game gave me the opportunity to capture the highs and lows of the game, resulting in great action and emotional pictures,” Covatta said.

 

A special thank you to Chris Covatta for all of the memories he has captured throughout the years. Some of his favorite photos can be seen below: