Only three seconds were left when 17-year-old Mike Shelly of Newtown Square made a half-court shot at the 76ers game Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center, a move that won every one of the nearly 21,000 people in attendance at the sold-out game a free Chick-fil-A chicken biscuit.
Shelly, whose winning shot went viral, knows a thing or two about making every second count. At 14, he was diagnosed with a rare type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and in August, his big brother, Andrew, died in a car accident.
The often random nature of life had hit the Shelly family hard recently, but it was a bit of random luck that got Mike Shelly to the court during Saturday's game. Out of more than 14,300 Sixers season-ticket holders, Shelly's dad, Mike, was chosen at random to take the shot during a TV timeout — an opportunity that he chose to give to his son, said Chris Heck, president of business operations for the 76ers.
The younger Shelly, who was declared cancer-free last year, brought the house down with his winning shot and his priceless reaction.
"It was an absolute roar, it was playoff-esque," Heck said of the crowd.
But it wasn't until the following day when Heck received an email from a friend that he learned of Shelly's battle with cancer and his brother's sudden death.
"This kid has been beating the odds his whole life," Heck said. "Your heart breaks for Mike and his family, but to have that moment that he could have of pure joy — which of course we all had pure joy, watching him — it was a gift."
Heck started reaching out to others in the Sixers organization, asking what else they might be able to do for Shelly.
"It dawned on us that this is Thanksgiving week, and it would be great if we could extend the happiness," Heck said.
The Sixers invited Shelly to sit courtside at Monday night's game against the Utah Jazz and ring the ceremonial pregame bell.
But before he did so, he was presented a custom jersey by Markelle Fultz and invited to fly on the team's plane in March to a game in Atlanta, where he will also get to tour the Chick-fil-A Support Center.
"It's a very unique opportunity," Heck said, of the offer to fly with the team on its plane.
Heck said Shelly "lit up" when he met Fultz and Fultz "lit up" when he met Shelly.
"They're both great young men and only [about] a year apart," Heck said. "It's fun to connect people through something special."