New Orleans Pelicans guard Devonte' Graham makes game-winning, 61-foot shot vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Pelicans.com

The Shot: An oral history of Devonte’ Graham’s 61-foot game-winner in Oklahoma City

Play-by-play of the final 1.4 seconds in the Pelicans thrilling win over the Thunder
by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

New Orleans guard Devonte’ Graham banked in a buzzer-beating, 61-foot shot from beyond the halfcourt stripe to beat Oklahoma City on Wednesday, the NBA’s longest game-winning basket of the last 25 years. Before Graham authored one of the most memorable plays in New Orleans franchise history, though, Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander forced a tie by draining an off-balance, 37-footer from the center of the floor, as New Orleans veteran guard Garrett Temple unsuccessfully tried to grab him for a two-shot foul. Pelicans coaches and players could not believe Gilgeous-Alexander was not only able to elude Temple’s grasp, but also swish a high-degree-of-difficulty bomb that made the Paycom Center scoreboard read New Orleans 110, Oklahoma City 110, with just 1.4 seconds remaining.

Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander forced a tie by draining an off-balance, 37-footer from the center of the floor

Willie Green

I thought Garrett fouled him. We even told the referees during the timeout, “Look, we plan on trying to foul the Thunder before they shoot a three.” But then Garrett tried to foul, but they didn’t call anything, so he had to let (Gilgeous-Alexander) go, because he didn’t want to give up a four-point play.

Jonas Valanciunas

That was a crazy shot on their part. I couldn’t believe it.

Devonte' Graham

I thought G.T. had fouled him, but now I’m just glad they didn’t call an and-one or something crazy like that. When (Gilgeous-Alexander) hit the shot, I was like, “Ah man, we don’t have any timeouts!”

Brandon Ingram

My first reaction was like, “Man, we’re going to overtime.” I definitely didn’t want to go to overtime in Oklahoma.

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Thinking quickly with the score now tied, Graham and fellow Pelicans starting guard Josh Hart made eye contact, leading Hart to quickly inbound the ball from the baseline, 94 feet from New Orleans’ basket. Graham also briefly saw Green give a signal to run a play the Pelicans use in desperate circumstances, when they need to get a shot up at the basket, but have minimal time and zero timeouts to use. Hart fired a pass in to Graham, who took one quick dribble to gain momentum and his balance, then launched from near the right sideline, as Oklahoma City forward Kenrich Williams put both of his arms up to contest the shot, making sure not to foul Graham as he heaved the ball.


Devonte' Graham

I was about to take the ball out of bounds, but then I was like, “Nah, I’m going to try to get a shot up.” I told Josh to come take the ball out, and I just let it fly.

Brandon Ingram

When I saw the ball leave his hands, it looked like it had a chance to go in, but I didn’t know if it would.

Devonte' Graham

I saw it go toward the basket and thought, “Man, it’s got a chance!”

Willie Green

When I saw the ball released from Devonte’s hands, I just said, “Lord please!” And He delivered. It was a crazy ending to an up-and-down game. Both teams just fought, battled. I’m glad we’re on the winning side of it. They actually executed a play that we put in for situations like that. The moment (Gilgeous-Alexander’s shot) went in, Devonte’ looked at me, and I gave a ‘touchdown’ sign. He knew what that meant. It was a crazy shot. I’m glad it went in.

Jonas Valanciunas

That was TWO crazy shots at the end. Good thing everything ended in favor of us.

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As Graham’s long toss was banking in off the glass, the guard’s momentum from his heave carried him across the midcourt line. When the shot went through the hoop, Graham quickly sped by the right sideline toward the New Orleans bench, then jumped to greet rookie teammate Herbert Jones. The Pelicans swarmed Graham as he ran to the left sideline and rejoiced, including a bear-hug by Hart.


Devonte' Graham

When it went in, I just ran around like a crazy person.

Brandon Ingram

I just kind of blacked out after he made it. I was in disbelief. It was just a hell of a shot. For the game-winning shots I’ve seen and been a part of, that was definitely number one, for sure.

Devonte' Graham

The play is called Vegas. I’m not sure why it’s called that, but it’s like a gamble. You’re betting on a crazy, crazy shot, putting all your chips in and hoisting one up. It’s a play call with three different options. Thankfully we picked the right option.

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An excited Graham initially turned and ran to the visiting locker room in Oklahoma City after his 61-foot winner, but needed to be tracked down by the team’s PR staff to return to the playing surface for a postgame TV interview with sideline reporter Jennifer Hale. The fourth-year NBA veteran has actually put in additional time throughout his career honing his accuracy on halfcourt shots, including just prior to New Orleans games this season.


Devonte' Graham

I don’t know if y’all notice, but before the game when the clock is winding down right before we do the national anthem, I shoot a halfcourt shot every time. It’s normal. I practice getting up a halfcourt shot at the end of the clock.

Jonas Valanciunas

(Laughing)He made a game-winning three-pointer one time this season in Utah, and today he did it again. So we expect him to do the same thing next game, too.

Devonte' Graham

I got a text from one of my buddies. He was like, “You’ve been practicing that shot your whole life!” When I was at Kansas I used to shoot halfcourt shots every practice. It was just playing around, but you never know when you might get in that situation like today. It ends up paying out for you.

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After Graham finally got to sit down at his locker in Paycom Center, his pair of phones were buzzing. Although he wasn’t exactly sure how the game ball was retrieved, the TV broadcast showed Pelicans teammate Naji Marshall grabbing it after it went through the basket for the game-winner. Graham noted that someone in his family will be able to treasure the keepsake.


Brandon Ingram

Devonte’ had already rushed to the locker room after he hit the shot. So when I came in the locker room, there was already ice all over my clothes, ice all over his stuff. Everyone was just congratulating him.

Devonte' Graham

I got the game ball. My grandma or mom or somebody is going to be excited to have it. That’s definitely the best game-winner I’ve had. Every one is memorable, but a fullcourt shot like that, it’s got to be ranked number one. I got like 70 direct messsages, 30 text messages right after the game about it. I got friends, family, coaches, everybody hitting me with a text. I watched the play four times right after the game, but it’s going to be another 400.

Inside the Pelicans' locker room after the Devonte' Graham game-winning buzzer beater at the Oklahoma City Thunder

Get a glimpse inside the player tunnel and locker room following Devonte' Graham's 61-foot game-winner to push the New Orleans Pelicans past the Oklahoma City Thunder on December 15, 2021.

2021-22 Game 30: Pelicans at Thunder

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Inside the Pelicans' locker room after the Devonte' Graham game-winning buzzer beater at the Oklahoma City Thunder

Get a glimpse inside the player tunnel and locker room following Devonte' Graham's 61-foot game-winner to push the New Orleans Pelicans past the Oklahoma City Thunder on December 15, 2021.
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New Orleans Pelicans guard Devonte' Graham addresses the media following the Pelicans' game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on December 15, 2021.
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New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram comes up with the steal and fast break slam.
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New Orleans Pelicans forward Herbert Jones chases down the play and swats away the shot from behind.
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New Orleans Pelicans guard Devonte' Graham pulls up for the triple and knocks it down.
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New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Hart throws the deep pass to Herbert Jones down the court for the lay-up.
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New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram takes off for the big slam.
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New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram puts on the moves and drives to the rim for the finish.
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