When 24-year old Brendan Bradt won $25,000 by sinking a half-court jump shot at the culmination of an annual contest, the crowd at Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., went nuts. But no one may have been happier than the contest’s sponsor, Northeastern Fine Jewelry, a four-store jeweler based in Schenectady, N.Y.
For the last two years, Northeastern has sponsored the “Shooting Stars” contest during halftime at Siena Saints home games. It works like this: At each game, one fan is chosen at random to shoot for 45 seconds from various locations on the court. For each basket they make, they receive a Northeastern gift certificate. The fan that scores the most points during the season (this year, Bradt) is invited back for a special bonus round, where they get one chance to sink a half-court shot. If they win, they get $25,000.
This is the first time someone has won the big prize, which, Northeastern’s owner, Ray Bleser, happily notes, was covered by insurance. “I am not a gambler,” he says. “Everyone told me beforehand, you shouldn’t have bought insurance. I said, ‘No. I’d sleep better with insurance.'”
The insurance cost about $3,000, but Bleser says it’s been worth it for the publicity. The winning shot was featured in every local newspaper and on every local TV station—it was even the No. 2 “Play of the Day” on ESPN’s Sportscenter. At press time, video of the shot had garnered more than 10,000 views on YouTube.
“Someone from the other side of the country called and said, ‘Is that your store?'” Bleser says. “Things like this keep your name out there. It’s a long-term thing. We are kind of known as the jeweler for Siena [College]. It ties us with a winner and Siena’s [team has] been a real winner this year.”
He adds, “I was praying all day he would make it. I had insurance, so I knew I had nothing to lose. And I’ve always wanted to be on ESPN.”
In the video, Bradt, a graduate student who came down from Boston to make the shot, appears cool as a cucumber as he effortlessly sinks his basket. But he later said: “Once I saw it swish, I was in shock. The basketball gods were good to me today.”
Bleser agrees: “The next day we had a press conference and he took about 20 shots and didn’t make any of them. He was just really lucky.”
Bradt says he’ll spend the money on his student loans, and he has already bought jewelry with the store gift certificates that came with the money.