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 wasn’t on the varsity as a freshman. When Owen was a sophomore, Okarche lost a first-round game in the state tournament at Moore High School. When Owen was a junior, Okarche reached the state semifinals, but its two state tournament games were played at Norman High and Oklahoma City University. When Owen was a senior, Okarche was eliminated before the state tournament.
Owen then played four years of basketball at Southwestern Christian University and now is the women’s coach at Mid-American Christian University in southwest OKC.
But Tuesday night, Owen finally made a big house. A house bigger than State Fair Arena.
In the Thunder-Memphis game at Oklahoma City Arena, Owen sank a halfcourt shot between the third and fourth quarters and won $20,000 from MidFirst Bank.
And 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 Owen left his seat in Section 308 of Loud City to report to the floor at the start of the third quarter, 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, but my pal Andrew Gilman, sitting next to me, noticed that 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.
So Owen stepped to the halfcourt line and mentally developed a 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.
Thunder workers celebrated with Owen, who did a nice job of keeping his composure, though when Rumble ran over, it wasn’t easy for Owen to keep his cool. Over on the Memphis bench, injured Grizzlies star Rudy Gay broke into a wide smile, and Thunder backup Nate Robinson, in uniform, celebrated and waved for Owen to come over. Robinson high-fived him.
Owen had some paperwork to fill out and was told he would receive his check later this week. He’s already been in contact with his tax man, to find out the best way to handle the $20,000 bonanza.
Owen finally returned to his seat midway through the fourth quarter, which means he got to see the worst part of the game. After the game, Owen got to pose for a photo with Kevin Durant. Owen had worked Durant’s basketball camp at Heritage Hall, and Wednesday morning on Facebook, Owen was stunned to see the photo on Durant’s page, offering a shout-out “to my buddy Roman,” for making the shot and with a reference to working the camp.
When Owen arrived at Mid-American University on Wednesday, some of his players were waiting on him, wanting to know where he was taking them to dinner.
What a great story. I like it because my brother, now the dean of the graduate college at Southwestern Christian, taught Owen in several classes at SCU. Turns out Owen married the great-granddaughter of the late Lamar Gosnell, who was my pastor, and a great one, the entire time I was a kid.
If I had known all those connections, I’d have been on my feet screaming after the shot. Whole bunch of Thunder fans with no connection did scream, and it added to a really cool night at the arena.