The Oklahoma City Thunder returned home from the NBA Finals in Miami, Fla., about the same time one of its biggest fans returned home from the hospital.
His beloved basketball team was eliminated, but Bricktown shooting victim Norman Richards II appears to have won his fight to stay alive.
“Glad to be going home,” the 22-year-old said while waiting Friday to be discharged from Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Hospital. “Sometimes I think about it like, ‘Why me?', but then everybody including my mom was like, ‘Stuff happens for a reason.' They say I'm a testimonial, I guess you would say.”
It was after dark on May 21, when Richards and his best friend, Xavier Rivers, headed to their car in Bricktown after leaving a watch party in Thunder Alley outside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The two had just witnessed another triumph in the Oklahoma City Thunder's storied 2012 playoff run — a 16-point routing of the Los Angeles Lakers — and were eager to beat traffic.
Richards, who lives with his father and grandfather in Del City, does not remember being targeted by the shooter, but he recognizes now he must have felt something. When the bullet, fired by a stranger with a .22-caliber pistol, barreled into Richards, it came through the middle of his back because he was already running away.
“My friend was like, ‘They look like they're getting into some trouble.' That's when he looked to the right, and they started shooting,” he said Friday. “I remember looking down there, but after that I don't remember nothing else.”
Eight people were shot, including six teenagers, and all of them apparently at random. Most escaped serious injury, but Richards' bullet ricocheted around his rib cage and punctured several organs, including his heart twice.
Avery Myers, 16, of Oklahoma City, remains in custody at the Oklahoma County jail, charged with eight felony counts of shooting with intent to kill. Police say the dispute started days earlier and had nothing to do with the game or the watch party.
The Thunder Alley watch parties, nevertheless, have been a thing of the past ever since.
“I got a sense of it when I left the house — nothing felt right the whole time I was down there,” Richards said of that night. “Then as we were walking to the car, you could just sense it in the air.”
He remembers coming to on Reno Avenue and jumping to his feet, as though he had tripped, only to crash back to the concrete a couple steps later. That's when he knew he had been shot, he said.
“I pretty much knew as soon as it happened,” he said. “Xavier ran over to me and said, ‘Get up.' I said, ‘No, I'm shot.'”