Thunder Fan Who Made Awesome $20K Half-Court Shot May Not See a Dime

Gabe ZaldivarPop Culture Lead WriterNovember 27, 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - NOVEMBER 18:   An Oklahoma City Thunder fan, Cameron Rodriguez, celebrates after hitting a half court shot for $20,000 during the game against the Denver Nuggets on November 18, 2013 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)
Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

One minute, you are standing midcourt, hugging the Thunder mascot after winning $20,000; the next, you are contemplating never seeing a dime of that money. 

Such is the plight of Cameron Rodriguez, who dropped a stunner from half court on Nov. 18, netting him a cool 20 large that unfortunately brings his status as an NAIA amateur athlete into question. 


UPDATE: Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. ET 

The Sporting News' DeAntae Prince has some great news to report. It seems Rodriguez will get to keep the $20,000 and use it for his tuition in the form of a scholarship. 

After some twists and turns, the young man has his happy ending. 

End of Update---


Bloomberg News' Eben Novy-Williams (h/t Yahoo! Sports) reports the 23-year-old who plays basketball at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan., is working diligently to find out if his newfound fortune can be used towards his tuition. 

As a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics athlete, Rodriguez "cannot use (his) sports ability or fame for financial reward," via Bloomberg. 

Many NBA fans will remember that Thunder faithful have been fairly successful at making it rain from half court lately. 

Business Insider's Tony Manfred recently reported on the amazing repercussions of the five fans who happened to hit a shot from half court this year. Yes, it seems the team has had to pay out an outrageous $100,000 in 2013, and $40,000 in one awesome week. 

Now it remains to be seen if we can count Rodriguez's winnings among the year's total. 

Here is a video of Rodriguez hitting the shot: 

According to the report, it slowly dawned on Rodriguez that he might have an issue shortly after the adrenaline from his triumph waned. "I didn’t really think about it at first because I was way too excited. After things settled down, I realized we might have an issue because I was receiving a large amount of money," Rodriguez said.

At the moment, Rodriguez is going through the proper channels to either have the money go toward his tuition or to a charity. 

MidFirst Bank, the institution that pays the winnings, has vowed to donate the $20,000 if Rodriguez is not allowed to use any portion of it for his schooling. 

Novy-Williams does offer some clarity on the situation: 

NCAA regulations also say that athletes aren’t eligible if they use their athletic skills for pay in their sport of focus. The bylaws make an exception for prizes from promotions where contestants are chosen at random, as Rodriguez’s was, NCAA spokeswoman Emily James said today in an e-mail.

In one respect, you can see how the rule would prohibit Rodriguez, who is well adept—at least we assume because of his basketball status—at hitting a shot, even if it's from half court. 

On the other hand, he hardly misrepresented himself and was truly chosen at random. 

There is one thing he has going for him in that he didn't try to hide his triumph. 

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - NOVEMBER 18:  Oklahoma City Thunder fan Cameron Rodriguez hits a halfcourt shot to win $20,000 during halftime against the Denver Nuggets on November 18, 2013 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: Use
Layne Murdoch Jr./Getty Images

Executive director of the NAIA Eligibility Center John Leavens spoke with Bloomberg and said that a decision should come in the next couple of weeks, but also commended Rodriguez.

"It would certainly hurt his cause if he had tried to circumvent the rules," Leavens said. "The fact that he connected with the right officials to make sure that he understood the proper application of the rule is something that we expect, and we’re glad to see."

Hitting a magical shot in front of thousands to win a bundle of loot has to be an amazing feeling. We have to stand in the background and remain jealous of those who have accomplished that feat. 

Still, we wouldn't want to ever feel the sting of suddenly realizing the prize is as fleeting as the initial basketball shot. 

We hope things work out for the young man. If not, we are glad the money is going to a great cause. 


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