According to an NBA news release, Bernstein will be honored during the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies Sept. 6-8 in Springfield, Massachusetts, alongside fellow recipient Doris Burke, an ESPN basketball analyst.
“It’s pretty amazing on a bunch of levels,” Bernstein said in a phone interview this week. “It was very unexpected and very humbling. To be recognized by my peers in the media, as well as by the people I worked with in the NBA and Hall of Fame for years and years and years is incredibly gratifying.”
The award, named for the former sports broadcaster and Hall of Fame board member and President Curt Gowdy, is awarded annually to print and electronic media members whose careers are deemed to have made a significant contribution to basketball.
“The print media has historically only been for writers,” Bernstein explained. “There’s only been one other photographer who’s gotten the award. It’s a huge honor.”
Bernstein, a Brooklyn native, has made a name for himself in basketball as the official photographer of both the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers (he also is the official photographer for the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks and NHL’s Los Angeles Kings). He was on hand for the Lakers’ Showtime era as well as the team’s resurgence under Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, and he also followed the basketball “Dream Team” during the 1992 Summer Olympics. A more recent highlight was shooting Bryant’s last game before retiring from basketball.
“I shot every moment of Kobe’s career,” Bernstein said. “He and I are actually working on a book together that, god-willing, will come out by Christmas this year.”
Currently the longest-tenured official photographer in the NBA, Bernstein’s first gig was photographing the 1983 NBA All-Star Game in The Forum on behalf of the NBA. His award announcement came at this past All-Star Weekend in the Staples Center, which he also worked.
“That was my 35th All-Star Game,” he said.
Bernstein soon looks to launch a new sports media platform titled Legends of Sport, which he describes as a “one-stop shop for everything iconic in sports,” and plans to kick off the brand with a podcast starting on Feb. 27 and also to utilize social media. In addition to showcasing important moments in sports, he said he also hopes to spotlight former players who have had issues since retiring from their sport.
“We’ve been kicking this idea around for over 10 years,” he said. “That’s my new sort of career move. I’m not quitting my day job or anything.”
Bernstein’s award will earn him the designation as a Hall-of-Famer, although he noted it will not be quite at the level of enshrinement as it is for players and coaches. The 20-year San Marino resident moved to Southern California 40 years ago this week, he noted.