Meet the Queen of NBA Photography
Meet Cassy Athena; the Queen of NBA Photography. A quick look at her instagram page reveals awesome up-and-close action shots of some of the best players in the NBA. From LeBron James to James Harden to many others, she’s met them all and can be seen regularly on the sidelines of NBA games and training camps.
Her story begins in February of 2009, when Cassy was diagnosed with a brain tumor. “The tumor was in the balance part of my brain,” she explained. “They said I shouldn’t be able to walk or move.” Though the tumor was deemed benign, she would still need to undergo surgery to remove it.
In the end, the surgery was successful and when Cassy woke up, her mother insisted on taking a photo of her lying in the hospital bed. “I think that’s why I’m still in photography. My parents loved documenting my life through cameras.”
Over the span the next year, Cassy’s fought through a tough recovery and it is during this period that she began to reanalyze her whole life and search internally for what her bigger purpose is. Ultimately, she decided to pursue a career in motion graphics or visual effects.
Cassy had always loved basketball, and got her first gig in the summer of 2011 at the Drew League in South LA. “I showed up one day. There were no cameras so I decided to start taking pictures,” she recalls. “ Over time, I started to make friends with a lot of the players.”
Those players included All-Stars like Kevin Durant, DeMar DeRozan and Dwyane Wade. Cassy would send her photos to the players via Twitter, slowly earning their recognition from there. Soon after, came Instagram which is where her platform really took off and her photos went viral.
Since then, Cassy has photographed everything from Stephen Curry and his wife Ayesha, to NBA All-Star Weekend 2016 to Toronto, and even private parties of players like Russell Westbrook and Paul George. She even went international this past summer, travelling to Serbia to document Bogdan Bogdanovic’s basketball camp.
“I feel like the biggest two things are trust and consistency,” she explains. “These guys are in the spotlight all the time and people try and exploit them. I’m here for the players. I’m not here to sell anybody out. And that didn’t happen overnight; that took me years.”
Today, Cassy is obviously well-known and highly regarded in NBA circles. When it comes to photography, “NBA players don’t mess with anyone else” says Jordan Bell of the Golden State Warriors. “Everybody knows who Cassy is.”
“I honestly never thought I would be where I’m at now,” she says. This wasn’t a position I ever pictured myself in. As for the future, I really don’t have any concrete plans. I could have been dead the past 10 years and I’m here alive still. So I’m just happy to be here.”
In 2013, Cassy attended the Under Armour Elite 24 game in Brooklyn, where she snapped shots of Devin Booker, Stanley Johnson, D’Angelo Russell, Kelly Oubre Jr and Myles Turner, all of whom went on to become NBA lottery picks.
“She’s an honest, true person,” says Stanley Johnson, who became close friends with Cassy. “She doesn’t want to get the picture for the most likes. She wants to get the right picture.”