As soon as the ball left Michael Drysch’s hand, he had a feeling.
In the days before the 50-year-old McHenry computer technician stood on the Miami Heat logo Friday night for a shot at $75,000, he had tried every conceivable method of getting his 42-foot shot on target.
Last week, he had spent his lunch hour outdoors, first on the outdoor court outside his Vernon Hills office before traveling to a nearby park. He attempted shooting in a two-hand underhand fashion. He tried to throw it like a baseball. But before long, Drysch decided a sky hook shot would provided the most momentum and give him his best chance.
He estimates of all the practice shots he attempted, 1 percent found their mark.
So when he walked to center court Friday night in Miami as a the grand prize winner of a sweepstakes connected to one of the NBA’s biggest stars, Miami’s LeBron James, his strategy to launch the half-court hook shot was set.
“Nobody tried talking me out of it,” Drysch told the Northwest Herald in a phone interview Saturday afternoon. “I got a little advice – to roll my fingers to create backspin. I lined up over my head with the basket to make sure I hit it straight. Then, I got some momentum and I put as much energy as I could into it.
“It felt good going up, it had enough arc and it went in.”
By now, the video footage has gone viral.
Drysch’s shot was perfect, dropping through the net, igniting an instant celebration. As Drysch jumped up and down at midcourt, James, who appeared even giddier over Drysch’s accomplishment than the man whose life has changed overnight, tackled him.
“He was coming in at me quick,” Drysch said. “All of a sudden, I look up and big, ole’ LeBron was coming at me and gave me a big bear hug, and I gave him a big bear hug and we’re all good friends now.”
James, who partnered with Carmex for the sweepstakes, which benefits Boys and Girls Club of America and The LeBron James Family Foundation, didn’t think the shot had a chance.
“When he wound up, I was like, ‘Oh no, there’s no way,’ ” James told reporters in Miami after Friday’s game. “When it dropped, it was awesome. I probably would have air-balled that in that situation.”
When reached Saturday afternoon, Drysch said he hadn’t slept. After doing an NBA TV interview with James on Friday night, he became an instant celebrity around South Beach. Still dressed in the shorts and T-shirt he had worn to the game, Drysch said he was immediately recognized everywhere he went, ending up at The Mansion night club, where night soon gave way to early morning.
After appearing on a Miami TV station Saturday morning, Drysch was preparing to board a flight for New York, where he was scheduled to make appearances on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” on CNN and possibly on Anderson Cooper’s daytime TV program.
Drysch said the experience has been euphoric. But it’s not the first time he has been the recipient of a big sweepstakes win. Drysch said for the past seven or eight years, he has entered 25 to 30 online sweepstakes a day through a program on SweepstakesAdvantage.com, which auto-fills forms. He was selected to travel to Miami out of 30,000 entries.
He has won everything from a new pickup truck to a trip to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker, a James Bond weekend in London and the Playboy Mansion to smaller prizes like baseball caps and T-shirts.
But none have been as life altering as his latest triumph.
“It’s changed in the blink of an eye,” said Drysch, who plans to use the money to pay bills and possibly visit his mother in Utah. “I took the shot and there’s LeBron – and wow. What a change.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who was drawing up a play when Drysch hit his shot, told reporters that as nice as the $75,000 will be, it likely won’t be the part of the experience that Drysch will remember most.
“Having [the shot] on video with LeBron James tackling you at half-court in front of 20,000 [fans],” Spoelstra said, “I think that will be the longer-lasting memory.”