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Cancer patient's family considers $20K halfcourt shot at OKC Thunder game to be miraculous

Heath Kufahl made a halfcourt shot at Tuesday night's game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers.
by Darnell Mayberry Modified: March 7, 2013 at 12:03 am •  Published: March 7, 2013

Heath said he's hardly ever worried about money, even though treatment for Jenni's rare form of cancer has been pricier than average and has called for frequent trips to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

“I feel like God's going to meet our needs,” Heath said. “It's something that's there, but we don't spend a lot of time worrying about it. He's met needs at different times.”


Heath is an admitted Lakers fan.

He roots for the Thunder, too.

When the two squared off Tuesday in downtown Oklahoma City, one of the hottest tickets of the season landed in Heath's hands as a gift, a present for his birthday last Wednesday.

Someone passing inside his school's office cordially wished Heath happy birthday. A parent and season ticket holder whose son is a freshman on Kufahl's basketball team overheard the exchange and offered Heath seats on the spot.

Jenni, who is in her seventh round of every-other-week chemotherapy, was able to attend only because this week was her off week for treatment. The family calls it her good week. Bad weeks are five-day bouts with low energy.

“The treatment weeks are tough,” Merrell said. “She's held up well. But it's the side effects that are not good. But when you see her you wouldn't know that there's anything wrong with her.”

Heath had hoped to shoot the halfcourt shot at a Jan. 14 game against the Phoenix Suns. But he arrived to the arena after the participants had already been chosen. This time, he got to the arena early. Only Jenni was nervous. She didn't want to do it.

Before a fan earns the right to shoot the halfcourt shot, two couples must compete in a quick free-throw shooting contest. The couple with the most makes in an allotted amount of time gets a shot at the cash prize.

“I told her she didn't have a choice,” Heath said.

How could Jenni have known then that it was meant to be?

It ended up providing much-needed money and her platform.

“We've been blessed through this blessing in disguise,” Heath said. “It's not always easy and we don't always have the right attitude. But we know that it happened for a reason.”


Jenni is a stay-at-home mother of seven, four boys and three girls aged 3 to 13.

Shock filled her face as her husband sunk the shot that would mean so much to her household. As Heath made his jubilant victory lap, Jenni stood still, mouth agape, eyes wide, utterly stunned.

The stars had aligned.

“It just came at a great time,” Jenni said Wednesday. “It really gave us good encouragement to see that the Lord is in control. It wasn't luck that he made that shot. We really believe it was the Lord.”

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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