A big fellow named Tiny Gallon rang out the old year with a bang – and a crash.
With more than 11,000 spectators jammed into the Spokane Arena to say goodbye to 2009 and root on the Gonzaga Bulldogs, the 6-foot-9, 296-pound freshman from the University of Oklahoma pushed everyone’s New Year’s Eve celebrating on hold when he shattered one of the backboards.
The shower of glass occurred just 4 minutes, 26 seconds into the second half of the Ronald McDonald House Charity Classic on Thursday night, with Gonzaga ahead 59-41.
The Sooners’ Willie Warren flipped a lob pass toward Gallon and the basket that Gonzaga’s Robert Sacre skied to tip away.
Behind him, the airborne Gallon grabbed the rim – and didn’t let go soon enough, ripping the flange away from the glass, which shattered into thousands of pieces.
Some of the glass scattered as far as the 3-point line on the opposite end, but game officials reported that no spectators along the east baseline complained of being hit.
The teams were immediately dispatched to their respective locker rooms and crews began cleanup.
A replacement backboard standard was wheeled on to the floor within 13 minutes, but a different rim had to be installed.
The teams were allowed an 8-minute warmup after the new backboard was in place before resuming the game, bringing the total delay to 45 minutes.
The incident came just two days short of exactly nine years since Gonzaga’s Casey Calvary shattered a backboard – at the west end of the Arena – in an 81-80 overtime loss to New Mexico. Calvary missed an attempted dunk 11 minutes into the second half and the crash caused a 42-minute delay while a new backboard was put into place.
Gonzaga later sold vials of the glass as souvenirs for $10.
Calvary was in attendance Thursday night and was hustled onto the air with ESPN announcers Brian Anderson and Stephen Bardo to help them fill time during the delay.
“Anyone who dunks a basketball is probably going to break a rim at some point in time,” Calvary said. “When it happens, you’re lucky if you don’t hurt yourself.”