15 minutes of James: Walter Iooss on shooting Sports Illustrated’s 2012 “Sportsman of the Year” cover in just a quarter of an hour

Walter Iooss - LeBron James

Click screenshot to see a behind-the-scenes video of Walter’s shoot at si.com.

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Walter Iooss had just 15 minutes to shoot the cover story of the new issue of Sports Illustrated, the highly anticipated “Sportsman of the Year” feature. And in that brief span of time, he had to not only get a cover shot and inside images of NBA superstar LeBron James of the Miami Heat—he also had to completely rethink his concept on the spot.

The photo session was set up at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, home of the Heat. Walter, who had spent days thinking about the shoot, had a great idea in mind for the cover and had it all ready to go for when LeBron arrived. But alas, it was not meant to be.

“We had a throne there that we wanted to pose him in, but Sports Illustrated must have never had said anything to him about it,” explained Walter last week by phone, on his way to the “Sportsman of the Year” party in New York City. “Because he arrived with a couple of people, and they saw the throne and said no. So the setup that we spent four hours and a lot of money to put together was useless. And five minutes before the shoot, we had to come up with something else.”

Walter has photographed the 27-year-old MVP many times before, starting when James was 18 years old. Despite the sudden change of plans on this shoot, the two knew how to make it work. “He knows how to pose,” says Walter. “He’s a pro.”

See a behind-the-scenes video of the shoot at si.com. Read Les Jenkins’ “Sportsman” feature on James here.

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LeBron James, Sports Illustrated's 2012 "Sportsman of the Year." Photos by Walter Iooss.

LeBron James, Sports Illustrated’s 2012 “Sportsman of the Year.” Photos by Walter Iooss.

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From the archives: LeBron James in Akron, Ohio, in 2005. Photo by Walter Iooss.

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Walter Iooss photographed LeBron for the October 27, 2003, cover of Sports Illustrated.

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