Missouri Man Sinks MidFirst Bank Half Court Shot

Standing in the bowels of the Oklahoma City Arena, Robert Yanders’ hands were visibly shaking as he filled out a form that would make official his $20,000 earnings.

Yanders was maybe a minute or two removed from making – more specifically, swishing – a half court shot that made him the first MidFirst Bank half court shot winner in the two-plus seasons of its existence.

“It happened so fast,” he said.

The shot looked good the moment it left his hands. Nice form. Smooth release. Hold the follow-through. Swish. The crowd erupted. The Thunder players waiting to check in were smiling. Kevin Durant even tried to high-five him. Yanders was beside himself, running nowhere in particular all over the court. His eyes were huge. His mouth was agape. And his fists were clenched.

Could you imagine the feeling?

Yanders, 31, almost didn’t. When approached prior to the game for a chance to partake in the contest, he almost passed.

“I was embarrassed to shoot at first,” he admitted.

Full disclosure: While Yanders has never made a half court shot at any level, even while horsing around, he does have some basketball skills. A Springfield, Missouri native, Yanders has played professional basketball for nine years and counting.

He starred at Missouri State and is a member of its Athletic Hall of Fame. He’s played in Tel Aviv, in Scotland and most recently was a member of the Great Britain National Team and teammates with Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng. Yanders even got a training camp invite from the Milwaukee Bucks once upon a time.

Yanders also owns dual citizenship in England and does motivational speaking to children, according to his official website.

But he said that no amount of basketball experience could have entirely prepared him for that half court shot. He was nervous, for sure, and his plan of attack was to “shoot it as if I wanted it to go in.”

Sounds simple enough, although Yanders said it helped to have an amped up crowd.

“They say the crowd is the sixth man,” he said, “and they were with me.”

And now Yanders is left with $20,000. After taxes, it’ll still be a nice chunk of change. When asked how he planned to spend it, he threw his hands up in the air and exclaimed, “It’s Christmas!”

This was Yanders’ first NBA game in nearly eight years and he got the tickets through his friend, Jamahl Mosley, an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was to be an early sendoff overseas, where Yanders said he was probably headed after January for another season of basketball.

But looking at the oversized cardboard check with his name on it, Yanders said, half jokingly, “I might not need to (go) anymore.”

Contact Chris Silva