The moment Lancaster resident and Palmdale native Suni Strong walked into STAPLES Center on Sunday afternoon, he knew he'd be a winner.
"When (the Lakers' employee) came up to me, when I first walked in, I said, 'Have my check ready,'" Strong said moments after hitting a promotional half court shot with the over-sized check worth $100,000 only feet away. "I knew I was going to make it. I had to."
Strong works for SpaceX, so beating the odds and dreaming big is effectively part of his job description.
"When I used to play, we used to practice (half court shots) a lot," Strong admitted with a beaming smile. "I played in high school, and I played park ball. It’s been years. Man, I’ve been building rockets, so I haven’t had a chance to get to the courts.”
Seemingly, years of playing basketball and practicing half court shots at Highland High School finally paid off for the 27-year-old former Bulldog and lifelong Lakers' fan.
"Since I was a child, I've looked up to the Lakers," Strong said, exuding joyous emotion. "I love the Lakers. So, this is probably the most exciting thing that's happened."
That's saying a great deal for a man who, along with working for SpaceX "building rockets," also earns a living as a bounty hunter, where he claimed to collect far bigger paydays than Sunday's $100,000 prize, sponsored by Mandalay Bay.
"I've collected millions for the judge before," Strong said, while also mentioning that he's been collecting bounties since the age of 18 and even recently appeared on an A&E show, Akil: The Fugitive Hunter.
As one would expect, Strong's shot sent STAPLES Center into a frenzy. His jackpot winning shot banked in off the backboard, and the colorful personality admitted that he didn't call "bank."
"I called money! It was a money shot!" Strong exclaims.
He adds, "I told them, 'I should be a Laker.' I pointed at KCP (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope). I told him, 'I should have been a Laker.'"
Asked about the prospect of giving Strong a 10-day contract, Lakers coach Luke Walton joked after the game, "We are looking for shooting, so yea, not a bad idea."
When a reporter mentioned that Strong was a bounty hunter, Walton laughed, "This guy gets better and better."
While the Lakers probably won't be rushing to sign Strong, another Palmdale-native is a prominent NBA player linked with the Lakers, i.e. Paul George. Sunday's moment, though, belonged to Strong.
"I told all my friends I'm shooting this shot," Strong said he notified all his friends back home with such gusto that his phone went dead by the time he actually made the miraculous heave. "This is crazy."
Strong added, "I'm a hometown hero now. It was Paul George."