Here is the situation: NC State is Duke in college basketball. Duke's basketball program is currently is ranked #1 nationally and is undefeated for the season. While NC State is the underdog, but has the home court advantage. As the game draws to a close and NC State is about to claim one of it's sweetest victories in school history. At this point, I rush from my nosebleed seats down to the court floor level. As the final buzzer sounds, a sea of red descends on the basketball floor as they storm the court.
In the complete chaos of students chanting, screaming, pushing and blissfully celebrating the huge victory, an NC State student named Will Privette rushes the court too. However, unlike most of the others, Privette is wheelchair bound. He is immediately thrusted from his wheelchair and thrown onto the floor of the basketball court. I noticed Will from when his wheelchair hit my foot. The Wolfpack mob towers over him and he lies helplessly on the ground with few noticing. While he is being nearly trampled to death, someone rescued him from the floor. However, it wasn't just anyone, it was C.J. Leslie, NC State's top scorer and star power forward who picked up Privette from the ground and hoisted him on his shoulders.
As I'm watching this unfold from about two feet away, I manage to take out my camera and snap a few of photos. I couldn't believe the sequence of events leading up to the star basketball player rescuing a handicapped student from a life-threatening situation. Walking back to my car and reviewing the photos I captured, I realized I had captured something amazing. But the story was so far fetched I was nearly worried people would believe what happened, even with the photo evidence.
As it turns out, during the televised game, reporter, Dick Vitale noticed Privitte storming the court in his wheelchair and expressed his concern for it on national television. I sent the Raleigh News and Observer a watermarked copy of the photograph and said I'd be happy to sell the rights. Just a few minutes after I sent the photo, I get a call from an editor of the paper saying the photo I captured is incredible and quite possibly the only one in existence that captures the event up close. He said he would let his other media colleagues this photograph.
The next day during my intro to business class in the morning, my phone keeps vibrating and I let numerous calls go to voicemail. When I get out of class and listen about a dozen voicemails from different major organizations. USA Today, ESPN, and The Miami Herald to name a few had reached out to me saying that immediately wanted to purchase rights to the photo. For the next few days, it almost became a full-time to negotiate contracts to sell the rights of the photos and then fill out contracts and tax forms, some which had to be mailed to corporate offices. In total, I made a nifty four digit sum from this photo but the money was just a bonus. Capturing such a powerful and moving piece of history as intense and outrageous as this was meant a lot to me personally.
The popularity of the image gave my work new reach it had never achieved before. When the photo was shared by a group on Facebook called "Do Something" the image had hundreds of thousands of 'likes' and tens of thousands of comments. Even a USA Today article was titled, "photo emerges of C.J. Leslie lifting up wheelchair court stormer." In article, it was said, "Privette told USA Today Sports that Leslie saved his life by picking him up while his wheelchair was lost in a sea of people. A touching photo of Leslie picking up Privette recently surfaced and captured Leslie's role of playing hero that mattered much more than his 25 points and six rebounds." For me, more than any of the attention that I gained from the photo, what meant the most was that I captured an emotional moment between a selfless basketball star and a someone who desperately needed help.