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.”
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.”
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.”
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.'
“I guess Skip Bayless called me out the next day. I guess he was like, ‘The fan can't call out Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant cannot get hurt.' I was like, ‘My intention was to catch him and hold him up.'
“Went to bed at 4, did a phone interview at 6. Half way through the phone interview, I realized I wasn't talking to my mom. I was so out of it.”
Making the half-court shot was the continuation of a string of good luck for Hill, then a counselor at Britton Elementary. First, he won the tickets to that game through an NCAA Tournament bracket contest on Power 103.5 FM. Then, the Thunder game just happened to fall on girlfriend Niki's birthday.
“I've never practiced on half-court shots. When I played basketball in high school (at Douglass) ... I shot threes a lot and I practiced on my three-point shot, but I never sat and shot three-point shots.
“My main thing was just focusing on the rim. Before he even gave me the ball, I zoomed in on the rim. I just made sure I aimed at that.
“I lost my mind after that ball sank. I found myself on the Thunder's bench. I don't even remember running over there.
“I got some bills paid up and paid off some student loans, and I actually went on a vacation. Then I ended up going back to school. I'm in the grad program at OU now.
“I think the shot kind of kick-started me to go back to school. It made me think, ‘If I can hit that $20,000 shot, I can do anything I put my mind to.' With that master's in human relations, it also helps out with my LPC, which is licensed professional counselor, and that's my main goal. I've got to impact the community, especially the community that I come from, the environment that I was raised in. Those kids feel like they don't have an outlet, they feel like there's no hope, so I feel like it's my responsibility to go back and let them know that they can do anything.
“I know how hard it is because I know how hard it was for me to make it to where I am. The chances were slim to none — they were just as slim as me hitting that shot.”
Rodriguez looked every bit like a former high school basketball standout from Elk City when he nailed the half-court shot. Trouble was, he was also a current college basketball player at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan. NAIA rules prohibited him from taking the $20,000 winnings, a rule that he appealed and won.
“I'm a shooter. That's what I do. I feel pretty comfortable with the ball in my hands shooting it. I tried to keep my form as much as possible. I tried to shoot it like a real shot. I guess it worked.
“I found out that it might be a problem (to keep the money) that night as soon as my coach found out. He saw it on Twitter. He called me. He was like, ‘Man, that's awesome. I'm so happy for you, but don't take it tonight. We want to make sure you're not going to lose your eligibility.'
“My first thought was, ‘If I don't get this, worse case it's going to go a charity, and I'll still have all the photos and all the memories and all the articles and everything else to remember it.' That was more worth it to me than the money was.
“The next day, I sat down with my head coach and athletic director, and we kind of threw some ideas around. I told my coach and my AD whether I got the money outright or not, I was going to use it for school. Me and my coach were like, ‘Wonder if they'd do a scholarship where you don't take the money and MidFirst gives it to you as a scholarship.'
“We talked to the NAIA and the guy who was helping us, and he said, ‘Well, that's actually kind of a good idea. The few people that stuff like this happened to before ... they all tried to appeal to just try to get the cash.'
“I think it all worked out. I think God has a reason for everything.”
Brucker is a high school coach at Piedmont, but he's way more comfortable using his feet, head or forearms. Soccer and volleyball are his sports, but he's a huge Thunder fan. He got a chance to shoot the half-court shot because he left work late and wanted to find a hot dog.
“This guy kind of tugs on my arm and says, ‘Hey, man, do you shoot baskets?' I'm like, ‘Nope.' We were walking past all the people that are trying to sell you stuff. I'd just done a section in my business class about not giving your personal information at places like the Thunder game because of identity theft reasons.
“Britney kind of grabs my arm. She says, ‘Brad, I think this is for the $20,000 half-court shot.'
“Don't step over the line and just throw it down at the white square on the backboard. That's all I was thinkin'. At no moment did I think it was going in — until it splashed in.
“Of course, then the whole Jay Z thing happened.
“I walked over and shook his hand, and he kind of pulled me in for a hug. I wanted to shake hands with Beyoncé, too, but I went over to shake his hand and she kind of stepped back. I didn't want to be trucked by their security.
“The secretaries (at school) were just getting bombarded. Yahoo! Sports. TMZ Sports. ESPN Radio. My assistant principal who'd just won assistant principal of the year, he was like, ‘Why don't you just take my office?' He looked at me and said, ‘Yeah, I've got some phone calls to return, too, but the Piedmont Gazette can wait.'
“I was the first person in my family to graduate college, and it took me 10 years and a lot of student loans. I don't want the same thing for my children. This gives me an opportunity to actually invest and maybe go a ways in helping them not have student loans.”