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Duke pledges $1 million for made free throw, “randomly selects” 90 year old English Professor

DURHAM, N.C.—The half-court challenge is a staple of the basketball game experience. Perfectly in line with the American ideals of an Average Joe rising through the class system through hard-work and skill, it is truly a spectacle one cannot miss. 

Duke has been an advocate of the challenge for years, offering students once-in-a-lifetime rewards such as scholarships and lifetime Office Depot gift cards. Still, administration made waves around campus this past week when they announced their most audacious prize ever: 1 million dollars for a made shot.

In the Bryan Center, Students lined up by the hundreds to register for the event. Questions on the form asked what the student would do with the money, their experience with sports, and their height/weight. The entry window was open Monday 9 AM through Thursday at noon, and students waited anxiously to hear if they would have a chance to make the heave. 

“Even if there is a one-in-a-million chance of me making the shot, this amount of money would change my family’s lives forever,” said Jackie Teal (Trinity ‘24). Some students reportedly waited in the sign-up line for upwards of four hours.

Thursday evening at 7:34 pm, the @dukestudents Instagram page posted that the lucky participant had been selected via a “random lottery system.” So, Friday night came and Cameron’s lights flooded the hardwood, welcoming the thousands of attendants for the game. 

At halftime, with the men’s basketball team up 26 points against Southwestern Loyala Technical, the crowd came to a startling halt. The emcee announced that it was time for the contestant to approach halfcourt, and the spotlight fell upon 90-year old James Patrickson walking from the tunnel, aided by a walker. Patrickson has been a tenured English professor at Duke for the past 37 years, offering classes in fiction writing and romance literature. Amongst the jeers and hollers of the upset student section, Patrickson shot the ball a staggering 3-feet.

The administration has assured students the selection was random, even replicating the lottery system once more for transparency. In this draw, blind student Stephanie Jan was picked.



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