The Education Of Walter Iooss Jr.

I’ve always held Sports Illustrated as the standard for sports journalism, most especially for their feature profile stories.

Growing up, the magazine served as a source of motivation for me to venture off into journalism and sports writing. As an 11 year-old, I’d ride my bike to the public library and check out 10 at a time just to learn about the human side to my favorite athletes. I would even go as far as tearing out the best stories and photographs and saving them in a sheet protected folder. Over the last few years, I’ve put aside the petty vandalism of returning magazines back with missing pages and have become a subscriber. Now, I look forward to each issue in my mailbox every Wednesday afternoon.

In the December 12 issue, there’s a great story on longtime sports photographer Walter Iooss Jr., titled “The Education Of Walter Iooss Jr.” (pages 130-149)

As a writer, it was refreshing to read a first-hand account of a photographer who got to snap shots of the iconic likes of Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and others. In addition to some of the 20th centuries lasting sports images, the story is also littered with anecdotes, particularly about Jordan, who Iooss has had a long standing relationship over the years. One such anecdote that drew a chuckle from me as I read was Jordan’s reaction to his centers, or lack thereof, during his last season with the Bulls.

Iooss Jr. writes, “Michael was merciless in an amusing way, but he said things to your face. In 1998 the Bulls had Joe Kleine, Luc Longley and Bill Wennington as their centers. One day Michael was in the training room after a practice, and I was sitting there while he iced down. Those three centers walked by, and Jordan said, “You know what I have to play with?” He looked right at them and said, “Twenty-one feet of s—.”

There are plenty of more laugh out loud moments in the story that show the human side to Tiger Woods, John Mcenroe, LeBron James, Reggie Jackson, and others, that are often not seen through the eye of the writer.

I could go on and brief them all here, but its best that you read it straight from the source. “The Education Of Walter Iooss Jr.” is one for the binders, and one you should read as well.

Click to read the story in its entirety here. Check out some of his pictures here. You’ve surly seen a few over the years.