What's more exciting than making a desperation half-court shot? Making a desperation, game-winning, full-court shot.
That's exactly what Virginia Tech forward Les Henson accomplished 36 years ago today on Jan. 21, 1980, against Florida State in Tully Gym in Tallahassee, Florida.
Tied at 77 with 5 seconds in the game, Florida State's Pernell Tookes' foul-line jumper bounced off the rim into the arms of Henson on the left baseline. Henson turned and heaved the rock the length of the court and the shot miraculously went down to give the Hokies the improbable 79-77 win (the shot occurred before the creation of the 3-pointer).
"At first I thought it was going to hit the lights, but it kept going," Henson told the Wilmington Morning Star in a story published Jan. 23, 1980. "When it went through, I turned to a Florida State cheerleader and said, 'Can you believe that shot?' "
At the time of the game, many believe Henson's shot covered 93 of Tully Gym's 94 feet. But upon further inspection by FSU officials, the shot measured 89 feet, 3 inches, to become the longest documented basketball field goal according to the Guinness Book or World Records. Henson's record was broken five years later by Bruce Morris of Marshall, who hit a 92-foot shot in 1985.
After the shot went down, the crowd erupted and Henson was mobbed at midcourt by the cheerleaders. Both coaches stood stunned, in awe of what transpired.
"I'll probably never see a shot like that again," VT coach Charlie Moir said after the game.
"It's the most incredible thing I've ever seen," Florida State coach Joe Williams said. "Henson hitting that miracle shot is like a golfer winning a tournament with a 100-foot putt over three mounds and two gulleys."
Henson finished with 20 points that night on 8-of-11 shooting. But the only score that will be remembered forever is his last-second, game-winning, full-court heave.
"It was a hope shot, one in a million," Henson said in 1980. "I'll never make a shot like that again."