It all started with a shot that Easton Gamoke had been told numerous times not to make. But as the seconds remaining in a tied game at the Great North West League Championship in Holmen, Wis., quickly disappeared, the 13-year-old Winona Middle School student flung the basketball from across the court and nailed a three-point shot to win the game for his Winona YMCA Running Rebels eighth-grade team. An incredible feat Gamoke would make again for camera crews down from the Twin Cities less than 24 hours later.
"It was crazy," said Easton Gamoke, of his full-court basket at the buzzer that won the Great North West League Championship for his YMCA Running Rebels eighth-grade team.
“It was crazy,” Gamoke acknowledged.
The shots, which were both caught on camera and quickly uploaded to YouTube by a parent, have gone viral. Within just over a week, the first full-court shot is up to nearly 1.1 million views and counting, while the second is close to half a million.
“I thought it would have a couple thousand views,” Gamoke said with sincere disbelief of the popularity of his game-winning basket video. “But it actually has over a million views.”
The videos are simple, not even a minute long, and feature Gamoke hurling a basketball the length of the court with apparent ease and the ball swishing into the net in one fluid movement. The difficulty of the shots, the fact that they came within 24 hours of each other, Gamoke's age, and the pressure of both situations seem to have combined to generate attention not only from the general public, but also from big name outlets like CNN — which flew him out to New York this past Friday — as well as Sports Illustrated and ESPN’s Sports Center.
“To get onto ESPN, that’s the ultimate goal,” Steve Heftman, the coach for the Running Rebels eighth-grade team, said. “This whole thing has been unbelievable.”
A love of the game
As Easton Gamoke settles into practice on Monday night at the local YMCA, he blends in with his teammates; they are gangly and quick as they make baskets and run through a series of routine drills. You can hear the sharp, fluid squeaks of basketball shoes shuffling on the hardwood floors. There are constant shouts of coaches and players yelling names and instructions. There is dribbling that syncs up with every pass and player. These are the sounds of another regular night of team practice, like all the others on Monday and Thursday nights. There are no internet celebrities, just a group of eighth grade boys who have been playing successfully together for the past few seasons.
“It means a lot,” Gamoke said of his basketball team. “We’ve won the state championship together and everyone on the team is good friends and everything.”
The boys had won the state championship for their age division the previous two years in a row, and hope to make it a third and final win this March.
“This is their last year playing together,” Heftman said. “Our goal is to win the state tournament again, one last time.”
After eighth grade is high school basketball, which is a whole other level all together. Some of the boys will go on to play high school basketball, while others will not. Even Gamoke is sensible when it comes to his future in basketball.
“I hope to play basketball in high school and college someday,” he said.
Gamoke recently tried for a third full-court basket at another tournament over the past weekend, but it wasn’t meant to be. He doesn’t mind, however. It is clear that his intentions were never to become famous; he just wanted to help out his team, so he stepped up and made the shot.
“If the time comes, I’ll do it again,” he said of another possible full-court shot. “If it’s something I need to do, I’ll do it again.”