2017 was my second year photographing the MGM Resorts Main Event basketball tournament. This year, the tournament moved to the T-Mobile Arena, which was a big improvement. The first game of the night was the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels versus the Rice Owls.
Photographing the warm ups is a great way to make sure your camera settings are dialed in and an easy way to get some good dunks. Although it is less exciting because there is no game action, I always try and get a few decent shots during the warm up. Below is a shot of Rice’s Addison Owens with the warm-up dunk.
The next two warm-up shots are some impressive dunks by UNLV’s Brandon McCoy.
Normal Game Action
This basketball game had lots of action, with lots of great play from both teams. The MGM Grand Main Event is great because they have both brackets so no matter what team you are cheering for, you have the opportunity to see some really good teams as well.
When photographing basketball, it is important to not forget about the normal game action. Not every shot needs to be of someone dunking, and because normal game action moves a little slower, it can be easier to nail the shot.
UNLV’s Jordan Johnson had himself quite the game. He was all over the court and always seemed to have the ball in his hands. It is no surprise most of my non-shooting images had him involved.
The image below of Jordan Johnson elevating for a pass was one of my favorite images from all of 2017.
Images of players mid-shot are second only to dunks. It’s tough to capture the perfect timing of the shot, but shooting in burst mode helps a lot. The below image shows Brandon McCoy elevating a shot over Tim Harrison.
In the next image, Jordan Johnson gets a floater off over the outstretched arms of Austin Meyer.
In the next image, Rice’s A.J. Lapray elevates for a mid-range jump shot.
In the next image, Rice’s Robert Martin finds a whole in the lane to finish off the tough drive.
Shooting also gives the opportunity to capture a nice blocked shot, which is even more fun.
The Dunks and Layups
Dunks and layups are the peak action shots during a basketball game. This game was not lacking in either. The ever-exciting Brandon McCoy was definitely the leader when it came to dunks. Dunks are great because there is a lot of forgiveness in whether you capture the moment leading up to the dunk, the actual dunk or even the moment after if there is some hanging on the rim.
Rice’s Malik Osborne also brought down the house with some monster dunks.
There’s plenty to shoot during the dead time too
Free throw shots get boring pretty quickly, but I like to focus on the other players, especially right before the opportunity to rebound, when they are super focused and plotting their next move.
The great part about UNLV participating in the MGM Resorts Main Event Tournament this year is they brought a lot of things that were not at the tournament last year, like cheerleaders, dance teams, the mascot and the band.
A great challenge is seeing capturing the focus of a time-out. Most of the time this is impossible as the players stand around the meeting, but I was able to get in behind Rice and capture the teaching moment.
Halftime is always a fun event at the MGM Resorts Main Event basketball tournament. A lot of dancing was followed up with a Coaches versus Cancer message starring Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
After the game, I headed back to the media room to catch the interviews with Jordan Johnson and Brandon McCoy.
The Fuji I was using for this game was far from ideal. Normally, I would much prefer shooting with at least a Nikon D850 or Canon 5D Mark IV, but I wasn’t going to skip a game just because I didn’t have access to the right gear.