Shot Nets $20,000

Jesse Norman sinks shot from half court during halftime of Thunder basketball game to win $20,000

By Joshua Allen
ONL Staff Reporter

Kent Norman walked out onto the floor at the Oklahoma City Thunder playoff game last weekend with one thing to do. It seemed easy enough … just make one shot.

Yeah, sure … it is from half-court, but it’s just one shot.

Thoughts similar to those aforementioned were racing through the mind of Jesse Norman, of Prague, before he took the shot that made him $20,000 richer at the Oklahoma City Thunder game over the weekend.

The Thunder and MidFirst Bank have long been teamed up for the halftime promotional that gives someone the chance to win $20,000 if they are able to make a shot from half-court within the 24-seconds allotted for the shot.

Norman said he wasn’t over confident before he went out to center-court, but said, “I figured, if I could take as many shots as I could in 24 seconds, I could eventually figure it out and make it.”

He figured right. Norman did sink the shot.

It only took him four shots and several seconds to figure it out, though, for those watching on TV, due to the way the producers edited the recording, it looked as if he walked out and drained it on the first attempt.

“No … they just cut out my first four shots,” he said. “I made it on the fifth one.”

The excitement was felt immediately following the ball hitting the rim, then the net — excitement felt by just about everyone watching at the Thunder stadium and likely by those at home or in some restaurant or bar somewhere watching the game.

Mostly because it’s exciting to see someone make it from that far and the sounds of the cheers and announcers are exhilarating, but also because it’s been a few years since the halftime half-court shot has been made by someone or the $20,000 been given out.

The night Norman made his, he was one of two. Derek Williams, of Midwest City, had just gone out before Norman and, after a few attempts, put his half-court, high-arching deep shot through the net.

“I bet they didn’t see that coming or expect that, you know?” Norman said. “It’s been a long time since anyone has won it; then, all of a sudden, we both go out there and make ours.”

“It was exciting, and it wore me out,” he continued. “After I made it, I was so worn out and exhausted, I was like, ‘Let’s go home.’ But they gave us court-side tickets also, so my boys got to go down and sit on the floor and watch the game … I watched from the lobby area, drained from all of it.”

The whole saga started with competitions for Norman. He said some time ago, there was a walk-in, open competition for anyone held in Edmond where the objective was to make a half-court shot in a similar, less-than-30-second amount of time.

The top 10 individuals to make it from center-court advanced, leading up to the finale of shooting for $20,000 during halftime of a Thunder game.

“I was the 139th person to shoot and the eighth to make it,” he said. “So 138 people shot in front of me and only seven had put it in.”

From there, he and the nine other people from the Edmond shoot-off went to Oklahoma City the Friday before the Thunder game for another competition among those finalists.

This wasn’t from half-court, though. Instead, each of the 10 individuals had 24 seconds to make as many shots from the foul line as possible — a free throw competition of sorts.

Norman again aced it, winning by at least three shots.

“I made nine, and second place made six,” he said.

The top two contenders in that bout of shooting would be in the final showdown, which is how this story started — 24 seconds to make only one shot from half-court. Do that, and the Thunder would write the person a check — or in this case check(s).

Those that saw the shot on TV or were there and saw it understand why it is safe to say he was excited. That’s an objective state. He was thrilled is also because as soon as the ball went in, Norman just ran and he and the mascot jumped up in the air together as the stands — certainly also Norman’s two sons — roared with the cheers of a congratulatory crowd.

Norman and his sons posed with Thunder staff and a big novelty check for $20,000 that was brought out onto the floor.

Norman said that one wasn’t the real check, explaining he went and picked up a normal, more regular-sized check from the Thunder’s corporate office Monday.

As for the money, the sharp shooter said, while he knew he could (emphasis on could) make it, he certainly hadn’t put it in his budget already or anything.

“I don’t plan on doing anything big or crazy with it,” he said. “I just bought a new lawn mower, so I bought a bag for it, and I’m going to buy my boys a new basketball goal because they need it.”

“Then, we’ll probably go somewhere this summer or something fun like that,” he added.

Norman is a local guy here in Okfuskee County. He grew up and went to school through his junior year in Okemah before finishing high school and graduating from Paden.

A self-employed owner and operator of a semi-truck, he and his two sons live in Prague.

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