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Oklahoma City Thunder: Fans share their half-court shot stories

The seven fans who made half-court shots at Oklahoma City NBA games share the story of their shot, the aftermath and what it means to them now.
by Jenni Carlson Published: December 14, 2013
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ROLAND GARRETT

Dec. 28, 2005

Garrett was the first Oklahoma City fan to hit a half-court shot and the only one to hit one during the Hornets' two-year stay. Then an Oklahoma City police detective, he won a 2006 Ford Mustang. Now a special agent in charge with the state's attorney general, he actually got picked for the half-court contest again a couple years ago, but he didn't win the free-throw shooting contest.

“Walking down to the arena, I missed a step on the curb and pulled my calf a little bit, so I jokingly told my son, ‘Ah, man, I won't be able to shoot the half-court shot tonight if they pick me.' When they came up and approached me ... I had to try it.

“They had little miniature basketball goals set up on the concourses. So, I was in the concourse with one of those little basketballs practicing taking off with my steps.

“Originally, I thought it was short, but it went through the net.

“I never really played organized ball. I played football (at John Marshall High School). But I was still able to go out there and knock that shot down and represent.

“Besides passing a pretty rigorous naval swim test, that was a pretty big deal.

“People started saying I wasn't going to get a car. I just heard people saying it was going to be a lease for a certain amount of time. Nobody from the Hornets organization ever said that.

“And the next week, they got me one. They were real nice and professional about everything. They just told me when to show up and pick it up. Everything worked out good. I just kept it for three or four months and then I traded it off. I enjoyed it.”

ROBERT YANDERS

Dec. 12, 2010

Yanders was the first fan to make the half-court shot at a Thunder game — and he wasn't even a Thunder fan. A former Missouri State player who was playing professionally overseas, he came to Oklahoma City for the game to visit a friend, Cleveland Cavaliers assistant Jamahl Mosley. Now a retired player, Yanders lives in Springfield, Mo.

“We got to the game early, and I wanted to watch the skill development they did with the guards and the bigs because I was going to be doing that one day in life. So, they have people that come around and ask, ‘Hey, do you want to shoot a half-court shot?' At first I was like, ‘Get out of our face. I'm trying to watch.' But then he said, ‘Hey, man, you can win $20,000.' My wife kind of looked at me, ‘You can warm up.'

“The lights were on ... and I embraced the moment, pumped the crowd up and went out there and shot that shot that I've shot millions of times after practice playing around with the fellas.

“All I could think was seams, arch, follow through, and it went straight through the net. I went crazy. Me and the Thunder bear or whatever that thing is.

“I took over half of that money and I started my nonprofit. We run a basketball program called the Yanders Law. We do a lot of good work in the community. I'm paying it forward.

“They could've picked anyone in the crowd. I guess I looked like a scrub, and they were like, ‘We're going to pick on this little guy.' And I let 'em have it that night.”

ROMAN OWEN

May 3, 2011

Even though he played high school basketball at tradition-rich Okarche and college ball at Southwestern Christian University, Owen never really practiced half-court shots. But that season as the Mid-America University women's coach — he's now video coordinator for Sherri Coale's Sooners — he had his players end pregame shootaround with half-court shots. They're convinced he was practicing for the Thunder contest.

“We were sitting there going ... ‘If you lose the free-throw contest, you'll never live that down.' I said, ‘I've seen most people shoot. I think I can win the free-throw contest, no problem. That's $100. I don't know if it's still the case, but if you just hit the rim or the backboard, they'd give you $500. Just don't leave it short and you get $600. That's a great night.

“So, that was the only thought I had in my mind — don't leave it short.

“It took me like three or four hours to respond to the 100-plus text messages and so many emails. That was crazy.

“I remember getting a call the next day for the tax attorney for my family. I answer the phone and he's like, ‘Roman? ... Bring me $5,000 tomorrow.' And he hung up the phone.

“The next day or two days later, I got a call from Berry Tramel. He wrote an article, and I got to be on the front of sports. Growing up in Oklahoma, I've read all of his articles. When he called, I was like, ‘The money's great, but this is really cool to spend time with him.'

“We just used it pretty much for a down payment on a house. Big blessing.”

JUSTIN DOUGHERTY

March 24

Dougherty wins the unofficial award for best celebration. Then a sports reporter for KOLR-TV in Springsfield, Mo., he got tackled by Kevin Durant. Now a news reporter in Oklahoma City at KWTV-9, Dougherty still struggles to believe it all happened.

“(A Thunder official) wanted me to be in a free-throw competition. My thinking is, ‘Standing on an NBA court taking some free throws? Sure.' Then he said, if you win the free throws, ‘You get to shoot a half-court shot.' I said, ‘No need to inform me about that. I won't win the free-throw contest, but I'll step on the court for you.'

“As soon as I won the free-throw contest ... have you seen “For Love of the Game”? You know when he says, “Clear the mechanism”? That's exactly what happened. I didn't activate it. It just did.

“So, I took the dribbles took the shot, and this is where I regained cognitive abilities. It was in the air, and I said, ‘Oh, that's straight. Oh, that might be in. Please God, don't let it bounce out. It's in.'

“Then I went ballistic.

“I was looking right at Kevin, and we make eye contact, and I was like, ‘Come at me, big fella.' He comes running right at me, and he jumps in my arms. I tried to catch him. I did not want to drop him at all. I thought I could hold him up. I remember thinking, ‘I've got to make sure I hit first because he can't get hurt. I can get hurt. I doesn't matter. But he can't get hurt.'

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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