NBA stars care about branding and image more than most professional athletes. Whether it’s Russell Westbrook's fashion statements or LeBron James' global marketing prowess, the NBA is remarkably image-conscious. A perfect example was when cameras caught LeBron adjusting his shorts during a timeout and resulted in his private area being shown on live television.
It's no surprise, then, that fans love to see embarrassing photos of their favorite basketball players. Sometimes it's a reaction shot after a made basket, or a perfect mid-action freeze-frame that shows two players in an embarrassing position. Either way, the fast paced game of basketball lends itself to some awkward, poorly timed photos being taken.
The truth is, we've all taken pictures we regret. Whether we didn't want to be in the picture or the photographer caught us in an unflattering moment of candor, not every photo is 100 percent perfect.
NBA stars are no different. A lot of them like to maintain a certain image about themselves and they don't like that image being compromised. These 15 photos capture some well-known NBA names in moments where they appeared completely disinterested taking the photograph. Other times, the photo captures them in a humbling reaction shot, leading to humorous embarrassment.
15 Doc and Austin Rivers
There haven't been too many notable father-son combinations throughout NBA history. Dell and Steph Curry may come to mind, as do Bill and Luke Walton. Luke Walton currently coaches the Los Angeles Lakers. Speaking of Los Angeles coaches, Doc Rivers serves as coach of the Clippers, where his son, Austin Rivers, is in his third season with the team.
The above photo shows two in a Media Day promo photo, where father and son look less than enthusiastic to pose next to each other. Doc seems puzzled as to why his son's hand is on his head. Austin's deadpan expression appears to suggest a feeling of boredom.
"This he most time I've ever spent with him," the younger Rivers told Bleacher Report in January 2017. "I think I maybe worked out with him twice in my life. I kind of did everything on my own."
While the two may seem distant in this photo, Doc assured that the father-son bond would never be broken.
"You're still his dad no matter what," Doc told Bleacher Report. "I'm always going to be that. You always are there."
14 James Jones
NBA Media Day is among the first major events of the NBA season. Players meet reporters and coaches conduct press conferences previewing the upcoming season. As always, promo photos are essential to any team's Media Day.
This photo shows James Jones, Cleveland Cavaliers small forward, filming a scoreboard segment during the team's Media Day in September 2016. Perhaps Jones is a bit unsettled by the puppet next to him, or maybe this photo caught him mid-sentence, but he doesn't look too excited to be there.
His exasperated look suggests that he might just be going through the motions. It is an expression reminiscent of a child being told to eat his vegetables at the dinner table.
Jones did have plenty to be happy about that though, as the Cavs were coming off their first-ever NBA championship, giving Jones his third ring.
13 Brooke Lopez and Courtney Lee
The New Jersey Nets would like to forget about the 2009-10 season. The team didn't win its first game until December 4, starting the season with a 0-18 record. The team's 4-46 record through 50 games was the worst start for any major sports team to play at least 50 games in a season.
It's no surprise then, to see Nets stars Brooke Lopez and Courtney Lee sulking on the sideline during a March 2010 game. The team was in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, and by the looks of this photo, both Lee and Lopez were at a loss for words. Lopez (left) gives the thousand-yard stare, while Lee (right) covers his face in a mix of shame and embarrassment.
Fortunately for Lee, he was traded to the Houston Rockets during the summer of 2010. Lopez wasn't so lucky, and has remained with the Nets to this day, even after the team's relocation to Brooklyn. Lopez has embraced his role with the Nets though. He recently became the second player in franchise history to score 10,000 points with the team.
12 John Salmons
Nothing epitomizes "candid" photos in sports more than reaction shots. Look no further than Milwaukee Bucks shooting guard John Salmons' shocked expression during a game against the Atlanta Hawks in 2010. Both players seem exasperated in the photo, but Salmons' reaction truly begs the question: What happened on the other end of the floor? Perhaps Salmons was reacting to a huge play for his team, given Josh Smith's look of frustration for the Hawks.
Salmon's face was prime " viral meme" material. Yet, for reasons unknown, no one exploited this priceless expression for those purposes. The Bucks traded Salmons to the Sacramento Kings in 2011. The University of Miami alum last played in the NBA back in 2015. He suited up for 21 games with the New Orleans Pelicans.
11 Gerald Green
There is nothing wrong with getting in the Christmas spirit, even if it's not in-season. The NBA is well known for playing games on Christmas Day, giving sports fans exciting matchups to watch at home with their families.
However, by the looks of this Media Day photo, Phoenix Suns small forward Gerald Green wasn't ready for Christmas just yet. He was coming off a career year in 2013-14, but appears a bit embarrassed by donning a wreath around his neck. His facial expression and hand position suggest he wants to remove that wreath immediately after the photo is taken.
Green left the Suns in 2015 for the Miami Heat, spending one year in South Beach before returning to the Boston Celtics (who originally drafted him) in 2016.
10 Michael Jordan
It’s no secret that “Crying Jordan” has taken on a life of its own as a meme. It’s associated with upset victories, blowout losses, and the like. It has even crossed over beyond the sports world and into popular culture to describe any instance of embarrassment.
However, to “Crying Jordan’s” credit, that image captured the basketball legend in a moment of sincerity and emotion while giving his Hall-of-Fame induction speech in 2009.
This photo captured Jordan in a more, shall we say, candid moment. The Bulls’ star leers into the camera with bloodshot eyes, suggesting an heir of inebriation. It’s unknown whether he is drunk or stoned, but he is definitely under the influence of some kind of drug.
Jordan was known to have a good time during his playing days. Far be it from me to criticize the GOAT for simply enjoying the fruits of his superstardom. Yet, looking back on it, I’m sure MJ would have preferred this photo never saw the light of day.
9 Spud Webb and Manute Bol
It’s always an uncanny sight to see some of the tallest NBA players standing next to other athletes. Who can forget the 2016 image of Shaquille O’Neal standing next to Team USA gymnast Simone Biles?
Manute Bol and Spud Webb took advantage of this dichotomy with a series of photos taken during the two teammates’ tenure with the USBL’s Rhode Island Gulls in 1985.
The picture showed the 7-foot-7 Bol towering over the 5-foot-7 Webb. The height difference is startling, and Webb himself doesn’t appear too happy with the visual. Whereas the other photos in the series show Webb dunking over Bol, this particular image shows the imposing nature of Bol over smaller players like Webb.
The height disparity doesn’t compare to that between Bol and future teammate Muggsy Bogues (who was 5-foot-3), but it’s still a remarkable juxtaposition. Webb seems none too thrilled by his diminutive frame compared to Bol.
8 Brandon Davies
Brandon Davies didn't have a long NBA career. The 6-foot-10 power forward went undrafted out of BYU in 2013, and spent just two years in the NBA before leaving to play hoops in Europe.
Davies spent his first NBA season in Philadelphia, when the team was at the very start of their rebuild. By drafting players like Joel Embiid, Michael Carter-Williams, and Nerlens Noel, the 76ers hoped to plant new seeds that would lead the team back to contention.
In this awkward Media Day photo from 2014, Davies is shown shoveling next to a plant. Maybe he is trying to show how he is part of this "growing" team. Unfortunately, both Carter-Williams and Noel have since been traded, and Embiid has battled injuries his entire career.
Davies was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in December of 2014, making this photo look all the more uncomfortable in retrospect.
7 Michael Carter-Williams
Speaking of Michael Carter-Williams, the point guard took his own un-amused Media Day photo while with the 76ers in 2014. He is pictured here posing with a basketball, listlessly looking at the camera. Now, I understand that many players give a scowl or grimace, a “tough” look of sorts, in promo photos. This could have been such an instance.
Yet, there is a difference between a serious demeanor, and a blank gaze. Carter-Williams seems to be displaying the latter, which is a bit surprising given that he had been named Rookie of the Year in 2014. Then again, the Sixers were rebuilding, and Carter-Williams was recovering from shoulder surgery that had him miss the start of the 2014-15 season. Perhaps that frustration was weighing on him when this photo was snapped.
All jokes aside, Carter-Williams never got the chance to finished that season in Philadelphia, as he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in February of 2015. He now plays for the Chicago Bulls.
6 Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony has plenty of reason for angst this season. From Phil Jackson taking veiled shots at him on social media, to the incessant trade speculation, Anthony has a right to be upset with how the Knicks organization treats him. One would think that playing for Team USA in last year’s Olympic games would alleviate some of that stress.
Yet, he seemed completely disinterested in his teammates’ choice of music for the team bus rides. Anthony is captured here in a DeMar DeRozan Instagram video, looking on with disdain while his team sang Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles.”
From the look on Carmelo’s face, he clearly wasn’t having it, almost is if he was thinking, ‘Are you guys serious right now?’ Fortunately, the team’s music choice didn’t affect Anthony’s play on the court that year, as he won his third Olympic gold medal.
5 Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Zach Randolph
Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Zack Randolph make up the core of the Memphis Grizzlies. They have five All-Star appearances between the three of them, and have led the Grizzlies to the playoffs in six straight seasons from 2010-2016. They are looking to make the postseason again this year, which would put the team's streak at seven.
The longtime trio posed for this promo photo for the Grizzlies' Media Day in 2014. It shows Gasol (left) and Randolph (right) holding up Conley (middle). While Gasol and Randolph appear to enjoy the candid snapshot, Conley seems a bit less amused. Sure, he's flashing the peace sign and appears to have a slight smirk, but I'm curious to know how that conversation took place when Gasol and Randolph asked Conley to pose for this photo. How did they convince him to take it?
Of course, this is all in good fun. Conley was probably being a good sport, showing a more human side to pro athletes.
4 Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard remains one of the most dominating physical players in the NBA. The 6-foot-11 center is an eight-time All-Star and five-time league-leader in rebounds. This photo, taken at the Houston Rockets’ 2014 Media Day, shows Howard with a pretty common reaction to getting sprayed in the face with a water-misting fan.
Who doesn’t remember getting hosed by a friend at summer camp with one of these things? It was hardly refreshing. Howard is clearly uncomfortable in the photo, given his closed eyes and slight grimace. Despite Howard’s hard-nosed style of play, he, like anyone, doesn’t enjoy a spray in the face, even if it is for promotional purposes. No matter how much you prepare for it, it’s always unpleasant unless you are the one spraying yourself.
Howard left the Rockets in 2016 to sign a three-year contract with his hometown Atlanta Hawks. His 2016 Media Day photos are much more cordial than those with Houston.
3 James Harden and Dwight Howard
Speaking of unpleasant Houston Media Day photos, take a look at this one of Dwight Howard with teammate James Harden. It was also from 2014, the two stars’ second season together. When Howard left Houston in 2016, he complained about a “lack of respect” from Harden as a primary reason for his departure.
According to ESPN’s Calvin Watkins, Howard was no fan of Harden’s seeming refusal to pass him the ball. Howard also felt his “bubbly” personality didn’t gel with Harden’s “guarded” demeanor, according to Watkins.
From this photo, it appears the tension was starting to simmer as far back as 2014. Yes, NBA stars strike poses in promo photos, which oftentimes make them appear aloof, imposing, or unhappy.
Yet, this photo shows them facing away from each other, with a blank stare suggesting displeasure. Perhaps it’s nothing shocking that they would split up less than two years later.
2 Charles Barkley
March Madness represents much of the best that sports have to offer, including high-stakes competition, Cinderella runs, and last-second victories. 2015’s tournament was no different. One of the great stories was Wisconsin’s upset victory over undefeated Kentucky in the Final Four. That win advanced them to the National Championship, where they eventually lost to Duke.
Amid the mayhem of Wisconsin’s victory, a young fan snapped a selfie with Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley. Whereas the fan strikes a pose suggesting excitement, Barkley looks a bit less enthused.
In fact, it seems as if “Sir Charles” couldn’t care less about being in this photo. Perhaps he was just taken by surprise, and wasn’t prepared to present his most photogenic self. Yet, with Barkley’s colorful personality, it’s a bit unclear why he looks so disinterested in the midst of such a seminal moment in college basketball.
1 LeBron James
NBA superstars always have a camera on them. Odds are the camera will pick up any slight mannerism, action, or reaction without the subject knowing. This was especially true of LeBron James during the fourth quarter of a blowout win over the New York Knicks in March of 2010.
The camera cut to LeBron, who was not-so-secretly mining for nose gold on the bench. Of all embarrassing moments to get caught in, picking one’s nose is right up there. LeBron tried to play it off after a few seconds, bringing his hand back up to his face as if to wipe his nose. However, the damage was done.
Of course, LeBron should hardly be embarrassed by that one incident. The following six seasons were arguably the best of his career. He won three NBA titles, two league MVP awards, and his second Olympic gold medal. Safe to say he put the nose-picking episode in his rearview mirror.