Women of the NBA: Jennifer Pottheiser

Women of the NBA: Jennifer Pottheiser

Photography began as Jennifer Pottheiser’s passion and soon turned into a career at the NBA.

In 2008, NBA photographer Jennifer Pottheiser was given an assignment many photographers only dream of: the chance to shoot photos of the USA Men’s Olympic team otherwise best known as the “Redeem Team.”

“I shot the team out in front of the Statue of Liberty ahead of the 2008 Olympics. I was out on a boat with LeBron James, Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant, and just about every variable you could think of was thrown into that shoot,” Pottheiser said. “To photograph athletes at the top of their game — it was incredibly humbling.”

The 2008 Olympic shoot led by Pottheiser resulted in one of the most iconic photos of the “Redeem Team,” but is just one of many incredible photographs attributed to her name.

As the longest-tenured female photographer at the NBA, Pottheiser has shot countless All-Star games, NBA Drafts, individual player portraits. After all that, she says there isn’t a day she takes her job for granted.

Pottsheiser’s shot of the 2008 ‘Redeem Team’ is a staple piece in her portfolio.

“I am thankful for my job every single day. As wacky as a schedule as I have, there is genuinely not one day that goes by that I wish I did something else,” she said.

“People would pay a lot of money to have access to the things that [in] my profession I get to attend and be exposed to. I am thankful every single minute I do this job, because there are a million photographers out there and, yet, they choose me.”

The pottheiser fell in love with photography because of its power of storytelling. As a kid, she liked taking pictures, but didn’t realize she could actually pursue photography as a living.

“My family was in the finance world and had very traditional jobs, and I went to Duke and everyone there was studying to have traditional jobs,” Pottheiser said. “I didn’t know how to become a photographer as there also wasn’t social media then. I would say that I sort of made up the rules, and I joke I’ve been making up the rules ever since.”

Pottheiser began apprenticing for different photographers — including fashion photographers, food photographers and even baby photographers. Her ties to Duke made basketball a natural subject of interest and her first NBA assignment was shooting a cover image of the New Jersey Nets for “SLAM Magazine.”

“I had been taking pictures and sending them to SLAM and making up projects that I could go out and shoot for,” Pottheiser said. “They would be self-directed assignments where I’d send the film to SLAM and be like ‘Hey, I shot this high school basketball tournament — here’s some pictures.’ The first real task I got was the Nets cover.”

Part of what has made Pottheiser stand out as a photographer was his ability to make her subjects feel comfortable while inwardly having an innate drive to be her best.

“Every time I leave a shoot, I consciously or subconsciously ask myself if I could do this again, what would I do differently?” she said. “That makes you better in every way, whether it’s how you took the pictures or communicated with PR or whatever it may be. I think once you stop feeling that way, you should probably get a new career.”

Despite all her success as an NBA photographer, Pottheiser still experiences imposter syndrome (a term loosely defined as doubting one’s capabilities or feeling fraudulent in one’s role). ESPN’s Doris Burke mentioned experiencing that feeling often.

“Especially with a tangible thing like a photograph, there is added pressure to perform every time. If I don’t produce — it is very obvious that I didn’t do my job,” Pottheiser said.

She notes that she often doesn’t realize the gravity of her work until it is over with, especially with the adrenaline and focus that is required to shoot and deliver quality content.

Pottheiser has shot with numerous NBA stars, such as this creative photo with Zion Williamson.

“One example is that I was just starting out my career when the WNBA started, and I went on a road trip with the New York Liberty. I pitched the story and shot the film. Now I look back, and I have photos of Rebecca Lobo getting her hair braided, and that didn’t seem historical at the time, but now it does.”

The pottheiser has a career path that is inspiring to both her male and female counterparts. For words of advice for those looking to follow in her footsteps, the advice is simple: “Dream big. There is no reason not to.”

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