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The story behind the 8 most iconic sports images

The story behind the 8 most iconic sports images

Pictures tell a thousand words

Since a large percentage of our brain dedicates itself to visual processing, images make for our best friend. Some of the world's best athletes have been captured by the world's most prolific photographers, helping us safely deposit profound memories in our brain banks. This blog presents you with a series of images from basketball to athletics, from the octagon to the swimming pool, and most importantly from camera to plain white reality with no filter needed. 

 1. 'The Smile' (2016)


 The Smile - (2016) 

''I took a punt, and it worked'', said Australian photographer Cameron Spencer, who photographed this picture.

Cameron was busy shooting the high jump before he came to a realisation that Usain Bolt was running the 200m semi-final. In doing so, he decided to run across the field and shoot the Jamaican superstar. Setting up shop at the 70 metre line was evidently a blessing in disguise. Knowing Usian bolt's playfully irreverent personality, he decided to look right at Spencer's camera with a cheeky smile. Renowned Spencer has 5 Olympics to show on his CV, but this very moment happens to be the icing on the cake.

2. 'Knockout' (1965)

Ali boxing

 Knockout - (1965) 

Neil Leifer followed Muhammad Ali's career from the beginning to the end. It took the heavyweight champion only 1 minute 44 seconds to knock his opponent out. Suprisingly, neither did this picture make it to the cover of 'Sports Illustrated'; it was actually on the 4th page, nor did it win at the biggest photo contest held by 'Encyclopedia Britannica'. Eventually, at the end of the century it ranked no.2 on the London Observer.


3. 'The Star of All Stars' (2020)

 The Star of All Stars - (2020)

This iconic picture tells quite the tale. Team LeBron took on Team Giannis in the 69th edition of the NBA All-Star game, played at the home of the Chicago Bulls. This game was played especially in honour of the late Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, who died in the Calabassas Helicopter Crash. To further honour them, Team Lebron wore Gianna's Number #2, while Team Giannis wore Kobe Bryant's iconic number #24. Successfully captured by Yip Lapson Karmin, it brings to light the intense pressure of the final few minutes of the game. 

4. 'Focus' (2017)

 Focus - (2017) 

Picture yourself sat on a warm sunny afternoon at the All England Club nursing your favourite beverage while watching Rafa Nadal paint a Picasso, on well cut green pastures. Although he went on to lose the tournament, sports photographer, James Gourley, added to Nadal's winning tally, as this image bagged gold at the 'World Sports Photography Awards'.

Gourley has an eye for the shift elite athletes put in, all in their endevour to grind out points for glory. Portraying those inner feelings to the public is the single best pieces of art one could possibly see.

5. 'Not Today' (2014)

 Not today - (2014) 

Lionel Messi could arguably be considered the best player. But, when asked about his accomplishments, there will always be the FIFA World Cup box unticked. Sadly, losing by a goal to Germany in the 2014 World Cup, Daria Isaeva makes us all feel empathetic as little Leo zips past a trophy that potentially could've put him on the same pedestal as the late Diego Maradona.

6. 'The Notorious' (2017)

Mcgregor, ufc

 The Notorious - (2017) 

Master of trash talk, owner of a distinguished whisky, dignified in his movement, dark in what John Barry makes us feel. Connor McGregor, is a former Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight and lightweight double-champion. Surely, John Barry got plenty of candid pictures of the Irish star. However, this by far plays the role of an absolute standout. 

7. 'The Paralympic Swimmer' (2004)

 The Paralympic Swimmer - (2004) 

Bob Martin parked himself nowhere near the position from which this photo was taken. He was elsewhere shooting the 200m freestyle heats before Xavi Torres, who is the athlete shot in this image, came out for his race. Martin claimed that he didn't spot any noticeable disability in Torres, until he took off his prosthetic legs and readied himself to swim.

Intrigued by this spectale, parked a distance away, Martin didn't make it on time to pick up his intended spot to shoot, tirelessly weaving his way through the rickety catwalks in the stadium. Fortunately, a false start made athletes resume original positions. Perfect for Bob Martin who went on to accumulate notable laurels for this beautiful image. 

8. 'This is Football' (1999)


 This is football - (1999)

This very moment changed the trajectory of the life of two people. Sports photographer, Robert Beck was seated in the upper stands, at the final of the 1999 Women's World Cup between China and the USA. Both heavyweights tussled for 120 minutes, paving the way for what was to be an iconic penalty shootout.

Brandi Chastain, supposedly 6th on the penalty takers list was pushed to no.5 after the US goalkeeper kept out a chinese kicker. Chastain stepped up and had the ball beautifully nestle past the chinese keeper. Thankfully, Beck had stationed himself behind the goal post, albeit without having a field credential. Perfectly capturing the celebratory Chastain, who ripped her shirt off as USA were crowned champions of the world. The image marked a new chapter in women’s sports, an expression of the strength and resilience of a generation of female athletes and an inspiration for future generations. 

10 years later, Chastain and Beck ran into each other at a basketball game wherein Beck told Chastain he was the reason behind this very iconic image.

At the end of it all, the discussion as to what makes for the best image is highly subjective. Let us know which one is your all-time favourite sporting image or any that we may have missed out on in the comment section below!

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