A day later, the light had come on and Heath Kufahl could connect the dots.
Something about the way everything lined up leading to his magical moment Tuesday night at the Oklahoma City Thunder game convinced him that his fling was far from a fluke.
Kufahl is the 37-year-old fan who swished a halfcourt shot just before the start of the fourth quarter. He became the first person this season to win the $20,000 prize.
“I was obviously really excited,” he said, looking back on his celebratory dash around the Chesapeake Energy Arena court. “I kind of reacted like a little kid, but that's OK.”
He had good reason.
Kufahl's wife, Jenni, is battling Stage III appendix cancer.
The fight is nearing five months. Jenni has undergone chemotherapy for nearly four.
To the Kufahl family, the prize money is precious. Much of it will go toward mounting medical bills.
But both Heath and Jenni believe there was more to that miraculous shot and the subsequent oversized five-figure cardboard check with which they were presented moments after stunning the sellout crowd of 18,203.
Instead of grieving upon her diagnosis, Jenni had the desire to be an inspiration. She wanted to turn her personal battle into a blessing for others. Use her pain as a platform.
On Wednesday, the Kufahl's telephone lines were flooded by local and national news outlets. All wanted to hear the heartwarming story. Prominent Internet sites wrote about it. ESPN's top show, SportsCenter, had Heath and Jenni on for a live interview. CNN even carried the story.
“Being able to hit that shot and the excitement of that just opened that even more,” Heath said. “She's been able to kind of tell her story and our story and hopefully be a blessing to people to know that life is difficult but God's in control. We saw that (Tuesday) night. That wasn't only going to happen by chance. I think he was in control.”
Heath Kufahl coaches boys basketball and volleyball at Christian Heritage Academy in Del City. His father-in-law, John Merrell, is the school's athletic director and varsity football coach.
Late last season, Merrell missed a pivotal game to be by Jenni's side as she lay in a hospital bed. She had been diagnosed just two days earlier.
One week after Jenni turned 38, Merrell sat helpless by his daughter's bed as she asked the doctor if she was going to die.
“I had no idea what a horrible disease cancer was,” Merrell said. “I didn't know anything about it. I'd been blessed not to have that as a family issue.”
Soon after Merrell learned of his son-in-law's improbable shot his mind naturally thought of how the money would help.
“I was elated,” Merrell said, “awestruck probably, because I thought of how they could really use that. I was so excited for them.”
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.”