There are great shots. And then there are great shots.
"By far one of the best sports pics I've seen taken!!" LeBron James tweeted on Dec. 7, one day after his Heat topped the Bucks, 88-78.
Despite the fractured sentence structure, it's hard to blame James for tweeting that way.
James looks wonderful in the shot: he is soaring, the Spalding is cocked back and helpless, and James, thanks to the low angle, looks as if he's descended from the rafters. His athleticism makes him the king of this world. And according to Morry Gash, the man who snapped the shot, James' dunk was to be the sole focus of the photo.
That is until Dwyane Wade comes flying into the picture ... and made it picture perfect.
Gash, who has been an Associated Press photographer in Milwaukee for 15 years, was set up on the north baseline of the Bradley Center in Milwaukee on Dec. 6 with his Canon EOS 1D Mark IV focused squarely on James flying toward the hoop.
"The camera I was shooting with was a longer lens," Gash said. "I was following the ball and I was on LeBron."
So, how did Wade making like a 747 appear in that shot if Gash had the camera in his hands following James? The answer lay at Gash's feet.
There by Gash's toes was his Canon EOS 5D Mark II, a camera outfitted with a wider-angle lens, synced to fire by radio remote control when he took pictures with the camera he held in his hand. As the play developed, Gash clicked off four or five shots narrowly focusing on James. At the time, he knew he had LeBron, but Gash didn't have an inkling Wade had entered the foreground approximately three to four feet in front of the photographer.
Keen-eyed observers watching the game could see Wade go out of frame on the left of the screen with his arms extended.
"To be honest," Gash said, "I had no idea Dwyane Wade even did that."
Yet, when Gash went to his computer near courtside to transmit back to the AP the photos from both cameras, he got quite the surprise.
"The handheld stuff was OK," Gash said. "I thought it was going to be better than it was. So when I saw the remote, I was stunned.
"Had I known that Wade had done that, I'd have been less surprised to see it. But I was quite pleased."
As were others. Gash said he received "a bunch of nice notes saying they enjoyed the picture." SBNation blogger and former FanHouse editor Tom Ziller called it the photo of the year. And because of the shot's composition, some thought the image was too perfect and that it had been Photoshopped. But it wasn't. The image came about like most great journalism, photo or otherwise: it was borne of excellent planning sprinkled with a little luck.
The beauty of the photo also lay in its subtext. The photo may be worth a thousand words of love ... or loathing. Were the Miami Heat, the league's most talked about team, finally having fun after a rougher-than-expected 9-8 start? Wasn't this -- the synergy between James' athleticism and Wade's electricity leaving defenders, in this case five deer carcasses in their wake -- what everyone was anticipating and waiting to see?
Or are these the Heat that many love to hate? If anything, this photo shows James and Wade, and in turn the Heat organization with their premature fireworks and preseason celebrations, filled with arrogance and avarice. Wade has his arms out as if to say: "Look at us, we're good and we know it."
When asked what he saw, Gash demurred.
"That's what I enjoy about still photography," Gash said, "everyone has different views of it."
There is no denying, however, that Gash captured something special, regardless of how one feels about the Heat, with that Canon 5D Mark II at his feet.
"It's the greatest job in the world covering history," Gash said. "I get to see things firsthand. Any time people can remember, it makes it that much better."