A shot at a Harley: Man's basketball feat at Southeast game wins new motorcycle

The crowd goes wild after an oblivious John McGowan made a half-court shot at halftime Thursday at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau to win a motorcycle from Lawless Harley Davidson. McGowan thought he’d missed the shot and was getting ready for another half-court heave until the crowd’s reaction tipped him off.

Laura Simon

John McGowan did not expect to be the proud owner of a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle after Thursday’s Southeast Missouri State University Redhawks men’s basketball game.

But he said he isn’t sure anyone else was expecting it, either.

The competition, sponsored by Lawless Harley-Davidson in Scott City and Cape Air, had a Harley-Davidson Street 750 model motorcycle as the prize. Entrants had 30 seconds to sink a free throw, a three-point shot and finally a half-court shot.

McGowan called it a minor miracle, adding, “I am not a basketball player.”

He estimated it had been at least 20 years since he’d picked up a basketball before Thursday.

John McGowan jumps into Southeast mascot Rowdy the Redhawk’s arms after sinking a half-court shot at halftime Thursday to win a motorcycle from Lawless Harley Davidson.

Laura Simon

Southeast’s marketing department had contacted him about a week or two before, McGowan said. When they told him what was involved, he wondered whether he could do it.

He said one of his first thoughts on entering the full Show Me Center on Thursday for the men’s basketball game against Murray State University was, “Oh, sure; tonight it’s full.”

He said crowds typically are smaller for home games, and he thought there would have been less pressure that way.

When he entered the court for the halftime competition, McGowan said he was nervous but excited.

“All moisture left my mouth,” he said. “I was excited, terrified, but trying to have fun.”

John McGowan jumps into Southeast mascot Rowdy the Redhawk’s arms after sinking a half-court shot at halftime Thursday to win a motorcycle from Lawless Harley Davidson.

Laura Simon

He said he asked whether he could start with the half-court shot instead of the free throw, reasoning he was as likely to make that shot as the other.

“They said no, it’s progressive,” he said, laughing. “And I went on to make all three shots.”

When organizers finally brought him up to the free-throw line, McGowan said his first thought was, “Please, Lord, don’t let me airball.”

The other thought he had in those moments before stepping to the line was an inkling the pressure athletes face, he said.

“When they’re in an arena, trying to sink a shot, in front of a crowd, it means something much more than a contest,” he said. “I have a greater appreciation for that talent and skills, their coolness under pressure.”

He said the crowd’s energy worked out well, though, because it got his adrenaline going.

“When I made that half-court shot, with them screaming,” he said, that was pretty great. “Unfortunately I didn’t see it go through. I thought it hit off the front rim, and I knew I had at least one, maybe two shots left. thought I came up short,” he said.

He was looking for another ball, realized the crowd was going nuts, and said he looked over at someone else on the court with him, who said, “Man, you just won a Harley!”

McGowan didn’t expect to win, and said Southeast must not have expected it, either.

“They didn’t even film it, and normally they do have halftime entertainment coverage,” he said. “Didn’t even have their cameras on.”

Fortunately, his wife Kelley McGowan was on the sidelines with his phone, filming what turned out to be his big win.

Kelley is excited for him, he said, but she jokingly told him he should have played the $ 400 million Powerball lottery instead.

“But she’s happy for us,” he said.

“It’s been a joyride, a wave of emotion and rush and happiness all around,” McGowan said.

This is McGowan’s first Harley, he said.

“I’m a native Milwaukeean, so having a Harley is kind of a dream,” he said.

McGowan said he did not drive the motorcycle home from the game.

“I haven’t had my motorcycle license in about 20 years,” he said.

Since his motorcycle endorsement on his license has expired, Dan Ryan, owner of Lawless Harley-Davidson, offered to pay for him to take the motorcycle-safety course at the Cape Girardeau Career Technology Center. “They didn’t have to do [that],” McGowan said, adding he’s extremely grateful.

He said he has signed the paperwork to take ownership of the motorcycle, but it hasn’t been delivered just yet.

“It’s all really exciting,” he said. “Only potential drawback, I now get to pay sales tax and income tax on winning it, but wow, I will take that trade-off.”

McGowan said this experience has been great, and he’s appreciative to those who made it possible.

“I want to give thanks to Cape Air, Southeast Missouri State University Redhawks Athletics and, of course, Lawless Harley-Davidson for the opportunity and for the great prize I’m now the joyful owner of,” he said.


(573) 388-3630

Pertinent address: 1333 N. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

2100 E. Outer Road, Scott City, Mo.

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Craig Ballantyne

I love anything to do with Harley Davidson and have two beautiful children and a beautiful partner. In my spare time i like building websites and love anything to do with the internet.

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