EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—A Devin Harris three-point attempt that caromed wildly off the back of the rim during the third quarter of Wednesday night's New York Knicks–New Jersey Nets game has created a disruption involving the entire NBA, with all 450 of the league's players attempting to scoop up the loose ball and gain possession for their respective teams.
NBA officials say the ball initially bounced near the Izod Center sideline, where Nets guard Bobby Simmons jumped, turned, and saved the ball, but inbounded it at a severe enough angle that it struck Knicks forward Al Harrington's shoe. The ball was then sent high into the air, ricocheting in turn up the arena's aisles, into the concession area, out the front entrance, through the parking lot, and on to I-495 East towards Manhattan, leaving multiple flailing players in its wake.
Eyewitnesses said that Nets and Knicks players continued to give chase along the highway and were eventually joined over the next three hours by the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers, with players only breaking off their pursuit for a few minutes when Knicks guard Nate Robinson was struck and killed by an oncoming car.
"That's the kind of tenacity I like to see on the court, down the Lincoln Tunnel, and up Broadway," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters as a live feed of the bouncing ball revealed that it had entered Philadelphia, where Sixer Andre Iguodala and Cleveland's LeBron James were chasing it around the Liberty Bell. "A willingness to sacrifice one's body by diving into the stands or the Hudson is what separates good teams from great teams."
When no players from the Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, or Utah Jazz were able to gain possession, the ball continued to bounce along I-95, eventually rolling off at a Washington, D.C. exit. Members of the Washington Wizards and Detroit Pistons then entered the scramble and proceeded to bat the ball through the White House; around the Lincoln Memorial; up, down, and back up the steps of the Washington Monument; into the Holocaust Museum's railcar exhibit; off the Key Bridge; and into the Potomac River, where a combination of tides and splashing from floundering players carried it into the Atlantic Ocean.
Although Toronto's Chris Bosh attempted to call time-out before the ball entered the river, referee Dick Bavetta—who had been chasing the ball through the entirety of its journey in order to monitor any loose ball fouls—said Bosh did not have possession and therefore could not call for a stoppage in play.
"You gotta be kidding me," said Bosh, who needed the rebound to complete a triple-double. "If he would have called that foul on [Pacer's forward Danny] Granger in Delaware this wouldn't even be an issue. No way that trip wasn't intentional."
Starters from the Miami Heat and Charlotte Bobcats spent the next several hours swimming after the ball approximately 90 miles off the coast of Florida, where it ultimately came into the possession of the Cuban military, who would only relinquish the ball to an NBA official. The resulting stoppage in play forced Bavetta to perform a jump ball between Miami's Dwyane Wade, Charlotte's Emeka Okafor, New Orleans' Chris Paul, Orlando's Dwight Howard, and Boston's Kevin Garnett.
Garnett, who had been enjoying the Celtics' Wednesday off, left dinner with his wife and entered the pack of chasing players after observing the loose ball rolling past the restaurant window.
"You got to want it," said Garnett, who tipped the jump ball to Yao Ming, who tipped it to Greg Oden, who tipped it to Pau Gasol, who tipped it onto the back of flatbed truck that was on a container ship headed back to the United States. "Where can I rent a cigarette boat around here?"
The container ship, however, was discovered to be captained by Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who told reporters that he was ready to go on a fast break when the ball was suddenly knocked out of his hands by "Cuban refugees," who turned out to be disguised members of the San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings.
The ball was batted around the deck for the entirety of the 600-mile trip to Galveston, TX, where the Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, Milwaukee Bucks, and Houston Rockets, alerted by breaking news reports, waited at dockside for the ship's arrival. A large melee ensued, and the ball was tipped nearly 70,000,000 times, working its way to Los Angeles, up towards Big Sur, all through Alcatraz, back down the Pacific Coast Highway, and finally into Oklahoma.
Though multiple shouts of "Same team!" were heard echoing throughout the more than 1 million square miles of the Great Plains, not one member of the 2-20 Oklahoma City Thunder realized that no other basketball organization was around to wrest the ball away from them. The Thunder lost its chance to gain possession when the ball bounced off Kevin Durant's knee into Colorado and over the Rocky Mountains, where Carmello Anthony mishandled it and accidentally tipped it to Shaquille O'Neal. O'Neal, not knowing what was going on, threw the ball into the Grand Canyon, which is where the ball currently sits.
"We're not going into the Grand Canyon," a statement from the National Basketball Players Association read in part. "At this moment all 450 of us can see the ball, but there is a snake near it, and we think it might be poisonous. We will go after the loose ball when the snake leaves."As of press time, Vince Carter has made absolutely no attempt to get the ball back for the Nets.