NBA camera operators do fantastic work from all areas on, beside, in back of and on top of the court, supplying fans with angles that most will never have the luxury to see in real time. Over the last decade or so, however, the NBA has had to address the issues of camera workers and potentially-dangerous camera equipment lingering just feet away from where players run and jump at full speed.
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The league has apparently decided to remove one instance of such from its courts. The sideline camera operator, usually relegated to capturing entering players, barking coaches, and the odd three-point swish, is off the map. The league smartly decided that, yeah, we don’t need that thing there.
Via Zach Harper at CBS Sports, here is a statement released by the NBA’s Referees Association:
In an effort to protect players and referees, the NBA has banned midcourt sideline television cameras, effective immediately, sources said.
The ban will affect national television games in which cameramen were permitted to sit on each side of the floor at midcourt. Those positions were able to get high-quality, low-angle shots of both the floor and the benches.
Saturday night’s Cleveland Cavaliers-San Antonio Spurs game, televised nationally on ABC, didn’t have such sideline cameras.
The National Basketball Referees Association had requested a change recently, sources said. As teams increase the number of 3-pointers and the depth of them, referees have been moving farther out to create angles to officiate. This left them more susceptible to the cameramen near midcourt.
As the statement points out, most NBA games covered locally don’t have a sideline camera operator. Those sorts of extras are usually reserved for more well-heeled nationally-televised games. It is fun to watch glimpses of an NBA game at floor – literal “floor,” not just via a courtside seat, level – but the risks aren’t worth it. Basketball is an impossible game to referee, and anyone who watches heaps of NCAA basketball every year understands that litanies of replacement refs aren’t exactly lining up to take over. The health of the league’s referees should be of paramount importance.
The consideration for baseline camera operators is an entirely different concern.
They aren’t a luxury, as those camera men and women are needed. The only reason they’re still in place, however, is probably because of the luxurious seats that sit behind them. Not because the league uses the cameras as some sort of ballast against a pricey season ticket-holder and a charging Kelly Olynyk, but because of the uneasy balance between doing what’s right when dealing with NBA media, and its thousand-buck seat fans.
The next time you have to run home to pick up a forgotten phone charter mid-afternoon, flip on NBA TV when it shows an old game; and this “old” contest can be as recent as seven or eight years ago. The sideline and baseline are filled with print media members. In 2016, those writers have been pushed to the upper tier, with radio play-by-play callers often stuck to middling tiers while working the game. Even in home arenas, some radio pairs have to work from a second row.
It’s how it works, as the NBA sadly realized what it probably should have years ago. That moving a scribe that won’t stop joking about a blown draft pick from 2002 up on the hill will also provide the added benefit of thousands of dollars per year in courtside fan seating; usually filled up with corporate-types brandishing gift tickets who don’t even know how to pronounce “Nikoloz Tskitishvili,” let alone spell it on deadline.
Most of those camera operators, however, are team employees. Damn good ones that provide shots for a generation’s worth of fans that can’t help but watch the giant scoreboard video more than the live action. They work under the threat of just as much physical danger as the millionaire players and backpedaling referees do, if not more. Losing them means losing a massive, integral part of the fan experience that said fans pay so much money to witness live.
The sideline camera is gone, and for good reason. Players are dancing around the three-point line like never before, and referees have to both watch a player’s feet as it tip-toes around that line while raising a hand prior to having to dash back to the other end after Stephen Curry knocks one in.
The other cameras? That’s a different, ongoing discussion.
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