We see the viral YouTube clips and highlights on SportsCenter: A fan, plucked from the stands, makes a miracle half-court shot, a long field goal, or puts a hockey puck into an impossibly small hole. We love those moments because of the sheer difficulty. The reactions of the winners. The unbridled joy. Because we know that maybe one day it could be us who wins a car or money or tuition for a semester.
But every big win has its own story, one that stretches far beyond what we see in those clips. Who were those people before they made the shot and what became of them after? Were the prizes they won life-altering or did they have minimal impact? We also assume that every miracle make was pure luck, but sometimes there was more to it than that.
SI.com reached out to a host of people who recently won contests and collected their stories. Here are the four. There was a shared moment between an average Joe and the most famous basketball player in the world. There was a student who almost never got to collect his prize. There were three women, all competing in the same promotional contest less than four weeks apart, who proved that sometimes the odds don't matter. Finally, there was a homeless young man and a field goal and a moment that will make you believe in fate.