Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Mack Story

For the past couple of months, I've been following the McClymonds High School Boys basketball team in West Oakland. The first time I watched Mack play, I was immediately intrigued: it was a pre-season game in December against Berkeley High, and the boys played with just so much emotion and passion. There was also an amazing energy in the gym - the stands were packed with students, parents, and alum. I was also put off by the fact that when I arrived to the school, there were about five cop cars outside the gym, and it was my first time going through a metal detector to attend a high school sporting event. West Oakland is notorious for being a "rough" area - very industrial (because it's near the Port), poor, and lots of shootings/random violence.

The obvious high level of basketball these kids were playing combined with the energy and spirit of the game and the seemingly dangerous environment of the community pulled me in. As I started learning more about the team, I discovered that there were a ton of journalist "gold-mine" stories surrounding the team. For example, after 13 years, this is head coach Dwight Nathaniel's last season. Nathaniel, who is more often referred to as "Coach Moe," has undergone many tragedies from losing his wife in a car accident to the suicide of his daughter and granddaughter, and these tragedies occur in many of the kids' and other coaches' lives. Will Cherry, a junior starter, lost his uncle in a shooting one day before one of Mack's play-off games. Barry Bell, a junior varsity player who was moved up to varsity for post-season, was shot in the leg while leaving one of his JV games earlier in the season. Aside from focusing on all the horrible things these players were dealing with at such a young age, this team is a winning team. The McClymond Warriors finished the season 32-0, claiming the California State Championship. They finished with an overall second ranking by MaxPreps in the nation. They have a history of producing great basketball players that include Bill Russell, Paul Silas, Joe Ellis, Nate Williams and Antonio Davis. Their history extends into the community where alum from Mack show so much spirit. All six assistant coaches as well as Coach Moe, attended Mack ranging from the class of 1974 to 1985. However, all this aside, the more I attended games and practices, the more I got to know the players, I found that the true heart of the story is in the relationships formed between the players and coaches. The coaches preach "Mack Family," and it is a family in the truest sense of the word. I feel so lucky that they let me into their lives and allowed me to document their season because this has been one of my most memorable experiences.

I am posting some PDFs of the paper to show how the Oakland Tribune played some of my images and my final story. The Oakland Tribune is not known as a photo paper (which is a shame since there are wonderful pictures to be made in Oakland) so my editor and I had to really fight to get space. I will also post a multimedia story in the coming days as well as some pictures that I like, but did not make the story.

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