Unbeknownst to the Thunder entertainment department, it randomly selected a hall-of-fame basketball player out of Sunday night's sellout crowd inside Oklahoma City Arena.
Thunder personnel picked Robert Yanders to participate in the MidFirst Bank Shot Contest during the second quarter of the Thunder's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Yanders won a free-throw shooting contest, which qualified him to take a half-court shot worth $20,000. Yanders was the 97th fan in Thunder history to shoot from half court in the contest, and the first one to make the shot.
Turns out there's a good reason Yanders was successful. He is a member of the Missouri State-West Plains Athletic Hall of Fame. As a point guard for the Grizzlies, Yanders led his team to the NJCAA Regional 16 championship in 1998-99 and the No. 2 national ranking the following season.
He finished as the school's leader in multiple categories, including career free throws (241), career assists (279), season free throws (160 in 1998-99), season free-throw percentage (.833 in 1998-99), free throws in a game (19) and 3-point field goals in a game (7).
Before West Plains, Yanders led Milwaukee's Vincent High School Vikings to three straight state championships and two city conference championships while being named all-conference twice and all-state once.
After West Plains, Yanders transferred to Missouri State in Springfield, where he played for former Oral Roberts coach Barry Hinson for two seasons. Yanders led the Bears in free-throw percentage (.855) and assists (105) his junior year, 3-point shooting percentage (.443) his senior year and received honorable mention All-Missouri Valley Conference preseason honors his senior year. He had career averages of 10.4 points, 3.1 assists and 2.8 rebounds.
Yanders failed in his tryout with the Milwaukee Bucks and played pro ball in the British Basketball League for the Scottish Rocks in Glasgow, Scotland.
Thunder officials confirmed there are no disclosure requirements for participants in the contest and Yanders received the $20,000.
The 31-year-old Yanders initially was hesitant to participate. "I was kind of embarrassed at first," Yanders said. "I didn't want to do it."
Yanders' wife, Jennifer, convinced him to shoot. "He should always listen to his wife â€“ always," said Jennifer, who bought her husband a Thunder T-shirt inside the arena before he took center stage.
Video of the shot has become popular on YouTube and includes the reaction from former Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer, who was seated behind the Thunder bench.
After playing seven of its previous nine games on the road, the Thunder closes out 2010 by playing eight out of 10 games at home.
"I really like the fact I get to meet my family, my wife and kids again," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "They're the ones who missed out because we were on the road for so many games these past three weeks. But it's nice to be home and get some family time. You also get some important time with the guys (players). You keep working on things and tinkering with things and continue to get better."
The Thunder has held its last four opponents to 21 points or less in the fourth quarter. â€¦ Kevin Durant leads the NBA is scoring (27.3) and is third in minutes played (39.7); Serge Ibaka is third in blocked shots (2.44) and fourth in field-goal percentage (.585); Russell Westbrook is tied for fifth in double-doubles (14), is seventh in assists (8.8), seventh in steals (2.12) and ninth in scoring (23.6); Jeff Green is sixth in minutes played (38.9). â€¦ The Thunder leads the league in free-throw percentage (.854) and free throws made (26.6), is second in free throws attempted (30.7), fourth in steals (8.8), seventh in scoring (103.2) and seventh in blocked shots (5.7).
"Nah, I don't even pay attention too much. That's probably what timeouts are for." â€“ Westbrook, when asked if he ever senses an opponent's frustration at trying to contain him.