Heart and heartbreak: The most emotional Getty Images from March Madness

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Heart and heartbreak: The most emotional Getty Images from March Madness

March Madness is a non-stop roller-coaster of emotion — joy, disappointment, anguish and elation. These Getty Images photos from this year’s men’s and women’s tournaments capture it all.

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Aari McDonald of the Arizona Wildcats steals the ball from Kiana Williams of the Stanford Cardinal in the National Championship game of the 2021 NCAA Women’s basketball Tournament at the Alamodome on April 4, 2021, in San Antonio, Texas.

This Championship game was an intense battle – especially in the fourth quarter. Both teams were playing tough defense and Aari McDonald of the Arizona Wildcats saw an opportunity to try and make the steal from Kianna Williams of the Stanford Cardinal. McDonald knocked the ball loose, but Williams was quick to grab it again and the two fought intensely for possession. Stanford won the National Title by one point. Throughout the game, these two were relentless in their defense and had intense drive in their offense. I think this is picture captures that and the battle between both teams to the very end.

— Elsa

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Paige Bueckers of the UConn Huskies celebrates her 3-point basket in the first quarter against the Baylor Lady Bears during the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Women’s basketball Tournament at the Alamodome on March 29, 2021, in San Antonio, Texas.

UConn freshman Paige Bueckers made her presence known during this tournament. The freshman guard was recently named the winner of the John R. Wooden Award honoring college basketball’s most outstanding player. She is the first freshman woman to win that award. In this image, she had just sunk a three-point shot against Baylor in a hard-fought game that came down to the wire. UConn won the game to advance to the Final Four only to lose to Arizona in the semifinal round. What I like about this image is the fire and competitiveness that she exhibited throughout the tournament.

— Elsa

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

A dejected Aari McDonald of the Arizona Wildcats sits on the court after missing a last-second shot allowing the Stanford Cardinal to win in the National Championship game of the 2021 NCAA Women’s basketball Tournament at the Alamodome on April 4, 2021, in San Antonio, Texas.

When covering a final, I try to find different ways and different angles to tell the story of the game. I find it best when you can see both sides in one frame. For this image, I set up a remote camera in the catwalk the day before the Women’s Championship game. I anticipated that the celebration would be somewhere around center court. After Aari McDonald of Arizona took her last shot within the final second of the game, she fell backward near the Final Four logo as the Stanford team celebrated. This is an easy image to read. The center court logo is stark and catches the eye automatically. In the right corner, the Stanford team celebrates in pure joy as they pile on the floor in total excitement, whereas in the left corner, the sadness of Aari McDonald’s body language is just devastating as she reacts to the loss. Placing a remote camera does not always guarantee success, but it gives me the opportunity to be in two places at once and capture an image like this from above.

— Elsa

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Jalen Suggs of the Gonzaga Bulldogs celebrates with teammates after making a game-winning 3-point basket in overtime to defeat the UCLA Bruins 93-90 during the 2021 NCAA Final Four semifinal at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 3, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

This picture was out of control! Jalen Suggs of the Gonzaga Bulldogs had just made a game-winning shot from at least 30-feet away. He jumped up on a table, celebrating with his teammates as they were headed to the National Championship game. This game against UCLA was one of the toughest, yet best games I have ever photographed throughout the NCAA Tournament. What a special moment it was to see the emotion just pour out of Suggs who left it all on the court up until the very last second.

— Andy Lyons

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Tyger Campbell of the UCLA Bruins celebrates defeating the Michigan Wolverines 51-49 in the Elite Eight round game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 30, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Each NCAA tournament there is always a team that taps into something special. This year it was UCLA. They played tough, gritty and fearless as a team and didn’t back down to any challenge. This particular image of point guard Tyger Campbell was after UCLA upset Michigan, one of the tournament’s top teams. With this victory, UCLA advanced to the Semifinal round. Emotion is what makes sport so interesting to me — you can train the athlete to know how to respond and perform, but the human is always waiting to emerge during moments like these.

— Andy Lyons

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Drew Timme of the Gonzaga Bulldogs goes up to the basket against Flo Thamba of the Baylor Bears in the National Championship game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 5, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

As sports photographers, we can go to some extremes sometimes to get different angles. This image found me putting a remote camera up in the very high up catwalk in Lucas Oil Stadium. I’m extremely afraid of heights so it took a few members of the Getty Images team to help me mount the camera just right. I was able to capture this photo of Drew Timme of the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the National Championship game as he ferociously went up against Flo Thamba of the Baylor Bears. I love how this angle showcases the determination in Timme’s face.

— Andy Lyons

Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Queen Egbo of the Baylor Lady Bears and Aaliyah Edwards #3 of the UConn Huskies battle for the ball during the second half in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Women’s basketball Tournament at the Alamodome on March 29, 2021, in San Antonio, Texas.

The game between Baylor and UConn felt like a Championship game because the teams were so evenly matched, and the competitiveness was kicked into gear from the first tipoff. I usually keep a 400mm or 300mm lens with me to highlight mid-court scrambles because, during a game like this one, it becomes a battle for every possession. From watching defensive matchups early on, I am able to tell how the ball is flowing and where it may get caught up. I am always looking to isolate the action and expression of the athletes, and in this case, it framed up well facing me.

— Carmen Mandato

Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Aaliyah Edwards of the UConn Huskies high five prior to facing the Arizona Wildcats in the Final Four semifinal game of the 2021 NCAA Women’s basketball Tournament at the Alamodome on April 2, 2021, in San Antonio, Texas.

This photo was captured from a remote camera set up on the stanchion of the basket. This remote was put on a wide lens, with the focus set to the key, just under the net. By luck, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Aaliyah Edwards of the UConn Huskies were right where I anticipated the game action and seemingly were raring to go at the start. Due to covid, photographers weren’t allowed on the floor to photograph introductions, and usually, it’s the only time theater lighting is being used. I fired the remote hoping it would isolate either players in spotlight or in shadow. The key to this photo is the crop, losing some of the extra court allows the viewer to focus on the symmetry of the subject and their shadows.

— Carmen Mandato

Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Aari McDonald of the Arizona Wildcats celebrates defeating the Texas A&M Aggies in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Women’s basketball Tournament at the Alamodome on March 27, 2021, in San Antonio, Texas.

Aari McDonald of the Arizona Wildcats had one of the most dominant performances of the entire tournament. In watching McDonald from the beginning, I could see her energy level respond to not just her own points, but the flow of the game. I could see the team getting behind her scoring, defensive efforts and overall energy. It was important for me to not just get her isolated reactions, but to have her in the foreground ahead of her teammates to tell a fuller story. I followed McDonald after a particular strong few possession from Arizona during the game against Texas A&M and this was the resulting image.

— Carmen Mandato

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Sheldon Stevens, Kareem Thompson and Jamie Bergens of the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles celebrate after defeating the Florida Gators in the second round game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball Tournament at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on March 21, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Oral Roberts defeated Florida 81-78.

One of the best parts of March Madness are the upsets, particularly close games that come down to the wire. After Oral Roberts defeated Florida, the players were overjoyed running, jumping and dancing as seen in this image. It was so much fun capturing this special moment for them, what is certainly a day they will remember forever.

— Maddie Meyer

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Jordan Bohannon of the Iowa Hawkeyes drives to the basket as Alessandro Lever of the Grand Canyon Antelopes defends during the second half in the first-round game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball Tournament at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on March 20, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

A fun challenge while covering the NCAA Tournament is finding different angles that showcase the athleticism of these talented players. This is an example taken from a remote camera I set up behind the backboard. Often these images are of an isolated player dunking the ball, but I like the intensity of Alessandro Lever of the Grand Canyon Antelopes as he desperately reaches for a block against Jordan Bohannon of the Iowa Hawkeyes.

— Maddie Meyer

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

McKinley Wright IV of the Colorado Buffaloes and Jeriah Horne of the Colorado Buffaloes react after their 71-53 loss to Florida State Seminoles in the second round game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball Tournament at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on March 22, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

This tournament is filled with so many high highs and low lows. In this photo, McKinley Wright IV of the Colorado Buffaloes is consoled by his teammate Jeriah Horne after their loss to Florida State. I always keep in mind that for some of these players it may be the last time they ever play competitive basketball at their school, or in their lives. One loss can mean the end of the road, and moments of connection and comfort after a loss illustrates the bond between teammates.

— Maddie Meyer

Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Joe Pleasant of the Abilene Christian Wildcats is surrounded by teammates after his winning free throw to defeat Texas Longhorns 53-52 in the first round game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 20, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

In this moment, forward Joe Pleasant had just made the game-winning free throws to help Abilene Christian upset Texas. I was pretty lucky to have ACU’s fans sitting on my end of the court. I love how chaotic these kinds of moments and reactions are, as well as how quickly us as photographers have to react to be in sync with the scene and to find the picture. This photo just shows the pure joy and excitement by both players and fans.

— Tim Nwachukwu

Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Davion Mitchell and Mark Vital of the Baylor Bears celebrate after winning the National Championship game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball Tournament against the Gonzaga Bulldogs at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 5, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Baylor Bears defeated the Gonzaga Bulldogs 86-70.

This reaction is pure magic! In this photo, Baylor teammates Davion Mitchell and Mark Vital are mid-air as they celebrate their win for the National Title. This came from one of the side remote cameras I had set up. It’s always cool to see what surprises come from this angle and just love the enthusiasm.

— Tim Nwachukwu

Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Javonte Smart of the LSU Tigers reacts to an injury against the Michigan Wolverines in the second round game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 22, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Joe Bryant Jr. of the Norfolk State Spartans reacts after being defeated by the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the first-round game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 20, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Gonzaga defeated Norfolk State 98-55.

There are so many photos of celebration that come out of March Madness, but at any event I cover, I always try to look outside of that. What’s happening besides the slam dunks? What’s happening besides the cheers from the winning team? That’s exactly how I found this shot. Norfolk State had just lost to Gonzaga, the No. 1 seed. Gonzaga is an incredible team, so I knew there would be plenty of images of them taken during the rest of the tournament, so I turned my attention specifically to Norfolk State for this game. This was it for them, this was the end of the road. I noticed a lot of the team starting to put their towels over their head as they walked off the court, I think probably because they didn’t want anyone to see their emotions after this loss. But from my perspective on the floor, I could still see Joe Bryant Jr.’s eyes, and the light hit the tear about to fall out of his eye just perfectly.

— Sarah Stier

Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Chandler Lawson of the Oregon Ducks dunks against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the second round game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 22, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

I had been working on this backboard remote camera shot for several days leading up to this game, adjusting the angle and focus slightly each day to improve the photos I was getting. But after three days, there still hadn’t been any “mega” slam dunks on the basket where I had this remote. Lucky for me, when the Iowa Hawkeyes and Oregon Ducks played each other, Oregon ended up taking control of the game in the second half, making dunk after dunk on my end of the court. I also loved the combination of the yellow Iowa uniforms and the bright green Oregon uniforms. I think the colors and the moment are what make this photo really stand out. I’m glad I was patient enough, and diligent enough, to keep trying this remote.

— Sarah Stier

Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

David Singleton of the UCLA Bruins celebrates with Kenneth Nwuba and Mac Etienne after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 88-78 in overtime in the Sweet Sixteen round game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball Tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

I loved watching UCLA play throughout the tournament. Honestly, I never expected them to have a shot at winning during this game against Alabama. But as they kept the score neck-and-neck, the game started to heat up. I was on my toes for the last five minutes of the game, trying to get reaction shots from both teams so I’d have what I needed regardless of which team won. The tension was building. Then, we get to overtime, and UCLA just dominated it. My photo position was on UCLA’s side of the court, and when they celebrated after the clock ran out, they turned right toward me, and I was lucky enough to get this clean shot of their reaction.

— Sarah Stier

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

MaCio Teague of the Baylor Bears holds up the trophy after defeating the Gonzaga Bulldogs 86-70 in the National Championship game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 5, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

This image has to be my favorite photo that I took from the entire tournament. After 23 days of being on-site in Indianapolis, it all boiled down to the moment of the winning team lifting the Championship trophy. When this moment happened right after Baylor had won, confetti cannons launched tons of confetti out of the ceiling which rained down on top of all the players. I shot through the 10 or 15 seconds when the team was entirely covered hoping to catch a face or two. I managed to capture this image which shows the elation of MaCio Teague lifting the trophy through a sea of confetti. This kind of frame is entirely hit or miss, but this time it worked out.

— Jamie Squire

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Drew Peterson of the USC Trojans and Eric Williams Jr. of the Oregon Ducks dive for a loose ball in the first half of their Sweet Sixteen round game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Capturing players laid out horizontally in midair always makes for an interesting picture. basketball is such a vertical game that one hardly ever sees this unless there is a dive for a loose ball. This image was captured by a remote camera I had set up on the baseline just to the side of the basket. Oftentimes, we set up cameras in locations where a person cannot physically be such as behind the backboard glass or affixed to the side of the stanchion. These angles yield dramatic effects and this particular image makes the viewer feel like they are right there in the moment. I didn’t know I had gotten this moment until after the game when I went to retrieve the camera. It was a really nice surprise!

— Jamie Squire

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Desi Sills of the Arkansas Razorbacks celebrates after defeating the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles in the Sweet Sixteen round of the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 27, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Emotion is such a big part of March Madness. The players work so hard each year to make it to the tournament and then advance after each round. This year was even more emotional because the tournament was canceled last year due to covid. The players were revved up and excited to play. Furthermore, because of the bubble situation where all 68 teams were quarantined within a few hotels in Indianapolis, there was a heightened sense of competition since the teams could physically see each other walking around the hotel and convention center. They all knew they were there for one purpose. When Arkansas won their Sweet Sixteen game against Oral Roberts, the players let out their pent-up emotions as you can see in this photo. I was allowed onto the floor after each game so luckily, I was able to capture their reactions as they happened.

— Jamie Squire

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Davion Mitchell of the Baylor Bears holds the trophy after defeating the Gonzaga Bulldogs 86-70 in the National Championship game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 5, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

After the Baylor Bears won the Championship game, the players celebrated for what seemed to be an eternity on the floor of the arena. As each one took turns cutting down the net, an NCAA tradition, I spied one of the star players, Davion Mitchell, sitting alone with the trophy just looking at it. I laid down with my back on the floor and shot up at him. I like this image because one can see his face through the glass as he stares down at the trophy. It was a tiny little quiet moment within the chaos of all the celebrations.

— Jamie Squire

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