By Beau Baxter
BOZEMAN, MONT.—The Saturday night, Feb. 22, 2020 Cat-Griz rivalry game between Montana State University and University of Montana brought hundreds from around the state to the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse and $11,111 to the wallet of student Joe Thompson.
“Shootout” coordinators pulled Thompson, a film-production major, from the crowd with the promise of cash prizes for every basket he made—the difficulty and reward increasing with every shot from a dollar for a layup, to a full court shot for $10,000 (totaling $11,111 if he successfully made every shot).
In the first fifteen seconds Thompson made it all the way through the half-court shot. Only a few participants have ever gotten that far, and as the crowd sparked into fervor, Thompson started hucking the ball 94 feet across the floor towards a foot and a half wide basket. The stadium erupted as Thompson swaggered back to sideline flashing a “2” and a “4” with his hands, a salute to the recently deceased NBA superstar Kobe Bryant. Even the broadcasters struggled to stay focused amidst the astonishing toss.
“I was on instant replay so I had to get back immediately, but I was completely shocked,” said Antonio Cabrera, a fellow student of Thompson’s and employee of the MSU athletics broadcasting team.
The footage of Thompson’s success spread across the internet in only days. He has so far been featured on notable electronic publications across like ESPN and Barstool Sports, even making it as far as the United Kingdom’s “Daily Mail.”
Within hours famed internet talk show host and former NFL kicker Pat MacAffee invited Thompson to Skype in for an interview. MacAffee offered Thompson a job on his show, and went so far to say that the university should give Thompson a scholarship for his accomplishment.
Despite the massive media spotlight Thompson seems rather level-headed and pragmatic about the entire situation.
“I’m not sure what I’ll do with the money,” said Thompson. “My car broke down a few months ago so probably just pay off some bills.”
The halftime event was a promotional deal between the Rib and Chop House of Livingston, Mont. and MSU’s Bobcat Athletics. The restaurant happily handed over the check after Thompson made the full court shot—the first time in the history of the promotion.
Thompson and the Chop House have already discussed a second event with the same premise, but now the money will go directly towards gym equipment for schools around Montana.
Thompson grew up in Billings, Mont. and stopped playing after an unfortunate hazing experience. However, he still believes in sufficient and equal athletic opportunity for the people of his community.