Back in 1993, the Houston Rockets were playing the Seattle Supersonics in a Game 7 second-round series that had gone to overtime. In 2012, you wouldn’t expect a last-second missed shot in that game to be of much note. But ESPN writer Ethan Sherwood Strauss noticed something weird. He writes about it at length here; I decided to break down the clip to help illustrate what happened. It is weird. As. Hell.
2. Let’s set the scene: Houston trails by one. 13.6 seconds left. Rockets are inbounding, and everyone knows the ball is eventually headed to Hakeem Olajuwon.
3. As you can see, there are five Rockets players on the court. Which makes sense. This is basketball.
4. The ball is inbounded and the clock starts running.
5. Naturally, the Rockets work it in to Hakeem as quickly as they can.
6. But Hakeem gets trapped, and he kicks it back out. However, something strange also happens here. Something very, very strange.
7. This is the same GIF, but with an explanatory arrow. A Rockets player comes onto the court. From the bench. A sixth player. And nobody notices.
8. Let’s zoom in. The player is a little-used bench guy named Winston Garland — #22.
9. As the Rockets’ attempted game-winner bricks off the rim, Garland is actually not that far away from rebounding position. A slight change in the bounce of the ball and he could’ve had the rebound.
10. HE EVEN PROTESTS THE OUT-OF-BOUNDS CALL. Dude! You’re not even supposed to be in the game! Don’t draw attention to yourself!
11. Why’d Garland do it? He told Strauss:
I was just trying to will us to win. Whatever we needed to do, whether it was cheering or helping up a teammate. That was my goal, probably, that was my purpose in walking on the floor.