When I started down my career path as a sportswriter, never did I imagine that I’d one day be part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian — as a photographer.
I’ve taken better photos, but a big part of journalism (and history) is being at the right place, doing the right thing at the right time. And this is how the above image of Fayth Goodrich and her daughters, Nikki Lewis and Angel Goodrich, came to be in the exhibit, “Indivisible,” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (the exhibit will tour the country; see Web site for details).
Back in the summer of 2008, I’d decided that Mindi Rice and I would cover the Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI) in Phoenix as part of our mission at ESPN HoopGurlz to show high-school girls’ basketball players throughout the nation, of every culture. It was a rich, unforgettable experience, made ever more special by the Smithsonian surprise.
The stereotypes of “Rez Ball,” I found, were fairly accurate — most teams were packs of quick, slick guards who could shoot the crap out of the ball. What was unexpected, but delightful, was the support the event received. Some of the gyms were packed, which is becoming less rare for girls’ basketball, and some of the tribal rivalries transferred onto the courts.
Angel Goodrich had been part of another memorable moment in the HoopGurlz phase of my career. When her high-school team, Sequoyah from Tahlequah, Okla., played in the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions in Chandler, Ariz., a lot of the local Native Americans came to support her, often filling the gym with rhythmic clapping. Goodrich was ranked No. 48 in the country by us, and signed with Kansas, so I was sure her team, Team Anonymous, was a good bet to get to the final, if not win it all. Team Anonymous did indeed win a super-close game, beating the Nation Lady Cats and Telisha Joe, another player I pegged early in the tournament to follow. I knew during the final seconds that I wanted a photo of the coach, Fayth Goodrich Lewis, and her daughters, Angel and Nikki, her two best players, so I grabbed my 200 mm and waited. I never could get them all facing the camera, so I “settled” for a shot of Nikki and Fayth reacting to Angel. It isn’t perfect, but it got me into the Smithsonian (and, by the way, published in the catalogue; it’s not huge, but it’s on page 126).