The cherry picker had been rented, the official NBA hoop had been assembled, and just the right amount of shadow-casting sunlight was streaming through the cumulus clouds. All that photographer Walter Iooss Jr. needed on that July day in 1987 was his subject, the 24-year-old Michael Jordan. Iooss was meeting Jordan in a parking lot at his youth camp in Lisle, Ill. Iooss didn't know which uniform Jordan would be wearing, so he had painted half of the asphalt red, to be used if Jordan wore white, and half of it blue, if he showed up in red. MJ arrived in red, and thus the iconic shot—known to photographer and subject simply as "The Blue Dunk" and pictured on the previous page—was born.
"That's one of the best photographs I've ever taken," says Iooss. It was the first time he'd worked with Jordan. Over the next decade and a half, Iooss would have many more opportunities to photograph the man who would become his muse. Iooss captured Jordan on the court but also gained access to more intimate moments—Michael playing with his children or stealing a midday nap in a Florida hotel room in 1993 (right). Says Iooss, "I was really fortunate to have someone who had so much appeal and charm and looks, who never altered anything he did when the camera was on because he was so used to having eyes trained on him everywhere he went."