The Winning Shot
With Home Court 2, photographer Bob Redding pictures a world of basketball bliss.
by DeMarco Williams
Bob Redding and I met during the summer of ’09 in Dallas. I was there to interview New Jersey Nets center Brook Lopez at the adidas Nations basketball camp. Redding, a Corpus Christi-based hoops lover and industrial photographer, was there to take snaps of the young participants. We chatted about Lopez. We spoke about lenses. But mostly we just talked. Even before he showed me a copy of Home Court, Redding’s brilliant coffee table book of basketball hoops of all shapes and sizes, I felt the guy was different. After seeing some of the 100+ pictures in the tome, any hunch was confirmed.
Who knew a collection so simple could be so unforgettable? Home Court’s overall reception was so warm and the experience so rich for Redding that he and his team of goal seekers are at it again with the recently published Home Court 2. Only this time, some of the snaps come from international courts. In this Q + A, the passionate collaborator shares details about the new project and a few fond memories of his old court.
SLAM: You’ve got pictures of goals from all over the Western Hemisphere. Are you doing all this scouting?
Bob Redding: I have people actually sending stuff in. And we just scratched the service. What made me feel good about the All-Star Game was that I met people from Russia and China. Anybody I saw with a camera, I was like, “Hey, send us a picture. We’re working on volume three. We want something from where you’re from—not just the U.S., but from around the world.” Even people I really couldn’t talk to for language barriers can look at [the book] and pick up on what was going on. We’ve already gotten shots from Russia already. We’re excited about that. And our relationship with adidas, I think that can open up some doors and get us some places we’ve never been before.
SLAM: Exactly what is adidas’ role with you?
BR: Well, the guy in the front of the book that I dedicated it to, Will Froehlich, worked for adidas when we first started the relationship. To tell you how important [SLAM is], he had seen the story that y’all had did in the [September ‘08] magazine. He ordered a book from me. What’s ironic is he was our first Paypal order. He ordered the one. We sent it out to Portland. Then he ordered 12 more. I told the guys, “This is really neat. Call the guy, thank him and find out who he is.” He didn’t let on at the time. He said, “Is there any way I could speak to Mr. Redding?” Carlos, our office guy, said, “Yeah, you can talk to him—if you call him Bob.” He said, “I work for adidas. I’m really taken by the book. I want to come down and meet up.” This had to be the summer of ’08. He came down, I think, to size us up and see what kind of people we were and what we were about. He was kinda like the lead scouting party, you know? He ended up staying here three days… He didn’t know much about us. He says, “I’d like to come over to your house tomorrow.” I said, “Well, I’d really like it if you just came on down to our office.” He goes, “Oh, I just thought you worked out of your house.” [I replied] “No, we have a design studio and office here and I’d love for you to come by.”
[Adidas] didn’t know anything about us. It was kind of like a blind date. We just hit it off. He spent three days with me. We kind of showed him our hometown. He goes to Dallas and calls me from the adidas nation [basketball camp] and says, “They want you here in Dallas. Can you come up?” I thought, “This is too good to be true,” and juggled my schedule and went up there. The ironic thing about all this, Will takes on another job during that week. Will’s background is that he’s been UCLA’s equipment manager for the basketball team. UCLA is one of adidas’ biggest collegiate accounts. They recruited him to go into this global marketing position. He actually went down to South America and did a year down there. We’ve stayed in contact with him the last two years. He sent me some pictures that are in the [new] book. He was really moved by the purity and simplicity of it. That’s what gotten everybody on. Just getting people to remember their first shot or their first backboard.
SLAM: What makes a court worthy of inclusion in the book?
BR: Well, this whole thing started from my roots when my dad put a 4×4 post in our backyard, growing up in Houston. Just being in the design business and being in industrial photography on a daily basis, I’m intrigued by the simplicity of the game. I always played through high school. I just love the game itself and the concept of it. You can play shirts and skins and just have a ball with any kind of goal or backboard that you can come up with. If you want to play basketball bad enough, you can nail something to a utility poll. It just intrigues me ‘cuz with baseball you gotta have gloves and cleats and bats. With football, you gotta have a ton of equipment. Even with soccer, you need a ball and more sophisticated goals. But you can play three-on-three with shirts or skins or whatever. It’s such a great design. I think about when [Dr. James] Naismith came up with it, they pinched a sport in between football and baseball so people would have something to do during the winter. I just think it’s so brilliant.
I think what really qualifies a shot [for the book] is the engineering, the design and the materials that are used in the goal. Not everyone can afford a brand-new, fiberglass, hydraulic backboard in the driveway. Even with some of the [goals] at Wal-Mart, where they are water- or sand-based, there’s nothing holding you back from playing basketball. I really had a great discussion with [Indiana Pacer] TJ Ford. Before a big game, even as a kid, he’d mentally go through shooting the winning shot or playing the game in his head before playing the game on the court.
There’s a guy in my shop from Ohio. He said, “When you’re up there, you just have to put coat hangers up and play in your home ‘cuz the weather’s so bad all the time.” As a kid, the first thing your parents teach you is don’t play with a ball in the house ‘cuz you’ll break stuff. There’s goes the sock, even pre-Nerf Ball. Coat hangers were used over the door for people who just wanted to play the game. It’s just a real love and passion for the game. If I could make a comment for the game, I’d say that it just includes everybody. The thing that impresses me the most is that it’s such a huge sport for girls and girls have come so far. The game has gotten so good for girls too.
SLAM: In the book, you give a special shout out to Gloria. Who’s that?
BR: That’s my wife. She’s the one that puts up with me and has been so supportive. She’s really so proud of it.
SLAM: Did it take a lot of convincing her to get these books made?
BR: All of this so far has been a hip-pocket project. It’s all been funded by us. Don’t get me wrong, DeMarco. We’ve been very blessed. This is my 25th year of business. We’ve got friends and clients all over the world that have been marvelous to us. Here I am in my mid-50s, publishing books. That’s why we’re looking for some [financial] legs, so we can take this thing bigger.
SLAM: Speaking of bigger and better, let’s say a SLAM reader wants to be involved with Volume 3. How does he go about doing that?
BR: Well, if they want to email me, pick up the phone or come visit my shop, our doors are open. We love to sit there and talk basketball. All they have to do is convince me that their court is the one that needs to be in the next book. It’s kind of by committee [with selections]. With Volume 2, we actually tried to size up [images], shot-for-shot, page-by-page. We tried to put some similar [hoops] or funny things that tied them all together. The stories this time meant a ton, too. Just the words and the passion and the love you can feel in the people that sent us the stories. To me, the stories are just as big as the photographs. I love to hear people’s stories. A guy told me, “I still remember the sound when the ball hit my backboard. The sound it made was like no other.” I hadn’t even thought about that! But you and I both know a ball hitting a metal board doesn’t have the same sound as a wood board. Just having that special thing that you remember about your goal or whatever [is nice].
SLAM: Is Home Court 2 an online purchase only or can folks get it at the book store?
BR: I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I’ll tell you that we’re working with the NBA Store and trying to get in there and all of the arenas. One of the possibilities that adidas has approached us with is maybe going to the Peace Players, the behind-the-scene group where you have people playing sports and working together with countries that aren’t talking and spreading the good word.