U.S. Reed to Northern Iowa’s Paul Jesperson: Enjoy the fame now

U.S. Reed is 56 years old and can’t escape The Shot, nor does he want to make it go away.

Not a day goes by that Reed doesn’t hear about his 49-foot buzzer-beater that allowed Arkansas to beat defending champion Louisville in a second-round NCAA Tournament game on March 14, 1981.

That’s the day when three upset finishes came down to the wire. That’s the day NBC’s Bryant Gumbel took viewers from Reed’s halfcourt shot to Rolando Blackman’s corner jumper as Kansas State beat top-seeded Oregon State to St. Joseph’s stunning national No. 1 DePaul. That’s the day that essentially resulted in a year later, when CBS got the tournament rights, Brent Musburger started using the phrase “March Madness” after seeing it in a car dealership ad for the Illinois high school basketball tournament.

Thirty-five years after his shot, Reed was watching March Madness at his house Friday night in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, when Northern Iowa’s Paul Jesperson banked in a stunning, half-court shot at the buzzer to beat Texas.

“A friend of mine texted me and said, ‘The U.S. Reed shot,’” Reed said. “I said, ‘No, mine was all net.’ Usually when a shot like that happens, the phone is going to be ringing, and for 30-some years, the phone is ringing every March. That’s been my life ever since that shot.”

Now, it’s Jesperson’s life. Reed finally has company in an exclusive club of players who won NCAA Tournament games with ridiculous, halfcourt shots.

Reed knows what’s coming for Jesperson. He has one piece of advice.

“Take every speaking engagement coming your way,” Reed said, laughing. “When it first happened to me, I would turn them down. There were so many and it was good money too. Back then, you’d get $400 to $500 for one speech. He’ll get more than that now. I started getting burned out. When I got older, I’m like, ‘I wish I had taken that money and put it into the savings account.’ Build your brand when it’s fresh. If I had to do it all over again, I would take more advantage of it. I was probably a little too lackadaisical.”

To fans of a certain generation, Reed’s shot remains an intense memory. Kids at golf shops who weren’t alive in 1981 tell Reed they promised their dad to ask him how he felt making that shot. Strangers tell him stories that relive emotional memories of their deceased fathers and grandfathers, or how someone had a heart attack after the shot, or how someone bumped his head on a ceiling fixture after the shot and went to the hospital.