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August 14, 2023

In 1993, Bulls Fan Don Calhoun Made a $1,000,000 Shot, But Almost Didn’t Get Paid

The Calhoun Shot, also known as the Immaculate Connection, was a basketball shot made by spectator Don Calhoun during a timeout in the third quarter of a Chicago Bulls–Miami Heat game on April 14, 1993. The shot was part of a promotion that offered 1 million dollars to any fan who could make a 75-foot shot through the basket from the free-throw line at the opposite end of the court. At the time, Calhoun’s shot was reported as the first time anyone ever made a three-quarters promotional shot. In actuality, a spectator had succeeded in this shot in 1989, winning a car.

Michael Jordan on Don Calhoun’s Million Dollar Shot: “One shot and he makes more than a lot of people in this league, man.”
The insurance company that was required to make the payoff, American Hole ’N One Inc, voided the payment on a technicality—due to Calhoun having played college basketball, a violation of the rules. However, the sponsors of the event (Coca-Cola, the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, and the Bulls) pledged to cover the prize if the insurance company would not. As a result, Calhoun got $50,000 a year over the next 20 years. The insurance company still benefited from the publicity. The shot, and the news coverage it gained, are credited with the rise of similar promotions during sport events.

Don Calhoun was at the time an office supplies salesman. He had played basketball for Bloomington High School and later for Triton College during the 1988–1989 season. Following the shot, he signed a one-year contract with the Harlem Globetrotters.

He later continued to work with office supplies, getting approximately $38,000 (after taxes) every year until 2013. He characterized the money as nice, but not something that made him feel rich. Thirty years after making the shot, Calhoun lives in the Midwest and has four children, one of whom managed to get a college degree as the first in the family, partly thanks to his father’s prize money.

As of 2023, the ball that was used to make the shot is in the possession of Calhoun’s son. It is autographed by Calhoun.


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