Roman Owen played four years of basketball at Okarche, one of the most tradition-rich high schools for hoops in Oklahoma. He never made it to the Big House, State Fair Arena.
Owen twice played on Okarche teams that made the state tournament, but he played games at Moore and Norman high schools and Oklahoma City University. Okarche was eliminated before reaching the Big House.
Owen then played four years of basketball at Southwestern Christian University and now is the women's coach at Mid-America University in southwest OKC.
But Tuesday night, Owen finally made a big house. A house bigger than State Fair Arena.
In the Thunder-Memphis NBA playoff game at Oklahoma City Arena, Owen sank a halfcourt shot between the third and fourth quarters and won $20,000 from MidFirst Bank.
Owen seemed to ignite the crowd. The Thunder had been playing well, leading the Grizzlies 76-68, but at the start of the fourth quarter, the Thunder reserves (with Serge Ibaka in place of Nazr Mohammed) spurted to a blowout. Took a 21-point lead, and the Thunder coasted the rest of the way.
No one is saying Roman Owen made the same contribution as Eric Maynor and James Harden. But no doubt that halfcourt shot brought some new juice to the atmosphere.
Coach Scotty Brooks didn't see the shot, “but I heard it,” he said.
Owen, suddenly a folk hero, said “everybody told me, ‘Roman, the crowd was re-energized. The sixth man was reinvigorated.'”
As Owen walked through the arena doors Tuesday night, he was picked out by Thunder officials, asking if he wanted to shoot. He said sure.
So at the start of the third quarter, Owen left his seat in Section 308 of Loud City to report to the floor, which meant he got to see virtually none of the third quarter. There's a downside to celebrity.
The MidFirst promotion is a foul-shooting contest in which the winner gets to shoot from halfcourt. Owen made three foul shots to his opponent's one, and you could tell Owen had good form. Several of his foul shots bounced off the rim; he was shooting with a yellow rubber ball that didn't seem conducive to a good grip or a favorable bounce.
But Owen stepped to the halfcourt line with a leather ball and a solid plan. “My honest thought was, ‘Whatever you do, don't leave it short,'” he said. Owen didn't. His shot was straight and caught the back iron for one of those slingshot swishes, sparking a big celebration in the stands and on the court.