For these two brothers and avid Indiana Pacers fans, being chosen for the half-court shootout challenge during Sunday night's game against the Utah Jazz was already a special treat. But that was before they even realized their true prize was worth so much more than money.
"You had to hit a free throw, then you'd get 50 bucks. A three-pointer you'd get $250, and a half-court shot you'd get $1,000," Aaron Rector, of Greenwood, Ind., said of his and his younger brother Brandon's attempts at the cash earnings. "You have 45 seconds to get all three. At the half-court shot, it almost went in, but we were still excited because we won 300 bucks."
The men would have been plenty happy walking away with the cash to enjoy the rest of the game from their seats in the coveted G2 fan zone, a special section allotted for only the most spirited fans, until they laid eyes on the real attraction: Their youngest brother, Justin, home from a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan.
"The emcee walked us out in the middle of the court and we glanced over and saw Justin come out of the tunnel," Aaron recalled. "I lost it. We were pretty excited."
As far as Aaron, 26, and Brandon, 23, knew, Justin was still in Afghanistan not supposed to ship out until March 7.
The rest of the family, including their parents and Aaron's wife, who was due to have their first child Feb. 28, were in on the big surprise the soldier had been planning for about six months.
"My wife was a big catalyst in all this," said Aaron, whose wife is being induced this Thursday. "She obviously wants him to be home for the birth of our daughter, and she helped plan so much of this."
Although Justin is already back on base in Fort Knox, he has no new plans for redeployment.
"We're just ecstatic that he's home and safe," Aaron said. "To see him in the flesh and know he's home, we're just so happy."