Michael Drysch is a chance junkie, addicted to the chase of anything that will turn him into a winner.
Each day, the 53-year-old routinely spends a few hours casting his name into endless online sweepstakes and contests and adheres to a simple rule when it comes to what can only be described as a mild obsession.
You can't win if you don't put yourself out there.
For years, Drysch has done just that, entering more sweepstakes than he can remember. Like with most games of chance, Drysch comes up empty more than he strikes sweepstakes gold, hitting pay dirt from time to time in the form of overseas trips, a new pickup truck and recently a year's supply of breakfast cereal that is delivered to his doorstep four cases at a time.
Two years ago, though, Drysch's otherwise anonymous existence of online-contest hound turned him into a YouTube celebrity -- all thanks to a $75,000 half-court hook shot during an NBA game in Miami and an even more incredible improvisational meeting with one of the league's biggest names -- LeBron James.
With one dribble, a couple of clumsy steps toward center court at American Airlines Arena during an in-game promotion in 2013, Drysch -- who had been selected to take the shot from an estimated 30,000 contest entries -- launched a high-arching hook shot toward the basket.
What ensued next instantly changed Drysch's life -- at least temporarily. The shot, which he made only once in an estimated 100 practice attempts, hit its target, prompting James to unexpectedly charge off the Heat bench and take Drysch to the ground in an enthusiastic bear hug.
Video of the shot and hug went viral almost instantly. In the next two days, Drysch made a whirlwind string talk show appearances in New York, which led to the filming of an ESPN SportsCenter commercial and even being mentioned by President Obama during Miami's White House visit after capturing the NBA title.
More than two years later, Drysch, who works on an assembly line at a Snap-On Tools manufacturing plant in the far northwest Chicago suburb of Crystal Lake, Illinois, still finds that the moment still keeps him the spotlight, albeit one that flickers on and off.
"It's like I'm a minor celebrity," Drysch says. "I have fun with it."
The story has taken on a new wrinkle.
After saying in the SportsCenter spot that hitting the odds-defying shot was one way to meet James, Drysch has written another chapter in his sweepstakes story by discovering another way to meet up with his personal connection to the NBA.
And against strong odds, Drysch has found a way to make it happen.
This weekend, Drysch will fly from Chicago to Cleveland where he will be one of three people to attend a meet and greet with the Cavaliers superstar, thanks again to again being randomly selected for a grand prize involving James.
The contest, run through My Coke Rewards with an estimated value of more than $3,700, will send Drysch and a guest to Cleveland for a one-night stay and a private meeting with James.
Drysch entered the maximum number of entries he could each week -- for six months -- typing in code numbers printed on the bottom of bottle tops, hoping against long odds that he would be one of three people to win and again be reunited with James.
No matter what it took.
"I was getting Coke caps out of the garbage, out of the recycle bins and would find them on the side of the street," Drysch says. "I just started entering and thought it would be a fun way to meet him again."
Drysch was shocked when he learned his efforts had paid off, delivering his first sweepstakes win in some time. But after charging onto the floor to greet Drysch after his half court hook shot in Miami nearly three years ago, perhaps no one was more surprised to hear of Drysch's grand-prize winning entry than James himself.
Given James' global appeal and stardom, Drysch figured there wasn't any way James would remember him from their on-court embrace 34 months ago. But given the way the two had met and the matching $75,000 that was also donated by Carmex – which sponsored the sweepstakes – to the The LeBron James Foundation and the Boys and Club of America, James expressed amazement that Drysch had managed to win his way into another meeting.
Especially given the chances that sweepstakes lightning could strike Drysch twice.
"It's very slim," James said this week. "(It's) very slim of him making that shot, but he did that too. So I guess it's more than slim."
Bob Hamman makes a living out of determining just how slim the odds are of people like Drysch striking sweepstakes gold.
Hamman, president of Dallas-based SCA Promotions. It's a business that insures companies offering prizes for sweepstakes and game-day contests such as half-court shots at NBA arenas and college football contests where fans are given the opportunity to kick field goals for cash and prizes.
According to Bloomberg News, since 1986, Hamman's company has covered billions of dollars in marketing promotions and paid out $191 million in winnings.
SCA does so after carefully, Bloomberg reported, calculating the odds of something taking place, such as the 1-in-410-million chance that a fan will perfectly fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket while picking favorites and 1-in-9.2-quintillion chance to complete a perfect bracket by making random picks.
Earlier this year, Hamman says he lost $1.5 million when he backed an Ohio-based furniture company offered free merchandise if Ohio State captured the first college football playoff national championship.
When Hamman decided the odds weren't in the Buckeyes favor, he agreed to back the contest while believing Oregon would capture the title. Forking out big payouts, like in the case of the Buckeyes, is just part of the cost of doing business, Hamman says. Hamman says SCA wouldn't be in business unless average Joes like Drysch won once in a while.
SCA underwrote the sweepstakes that led to Drysch's big payday and with Hamman's company paying out a combined $150,000 to Drysch and the James Foundation and the Boys and Girls club within three days.
But as thrilling as moments like Drysch's half-court heave in Miami are, Hamman finds himself siding with his own financial interests.
"If you don't have a winner, you don't have a business," Hamman says in a phone interview. "You just hope they're not too painful when they occur."
Like with any of the other odds he sets, Hamman has a formula for calculating the chances of success for shots like Drysch's. He estimates that an NBA player has a one in 10 chance of hitting from half court after warming up. Give a fan a chance a few warm-up shots and the same opportunity from the same spot on the floor and the chances go to a 1-in-25 chance of connecting from long distance.
But allow a fan like Drysch to walk out on the floor without warming up and attempting a shot -- let alone one as unorthodox as the one Drysch hit for $75,000 – and Hamman stretches the odds to 1-in-50.
Hamman takes several factors into consideration. This ranges from the skill of the participant to putting scientific data into the mix such as the force one puts behind the shot and the trajectory the shot attempt takes once it leaves the participant's hand.
"It basically has to be a very accurate shot from half court unless you put a lot of arc on it," Hamman says. "In which case, you begin to introduce more factors."
For Drysch, who never played organized basketball, hitting the jackpot from center court came as a huge surprise. By adding arc to the shot and putting a little spin on the ball, Drysch said he upped his chances from the practice attempts he would take during his lunch hour on an area playground. But even then, James said at the time said that when he watched Drysch wind up like he did before thrusting the ball into the air, he thought the shot at $75,0000 had no chance.
"Then when it was up in the air, I was like, 'Oh, that's got a chance,'" James told reporters after the game and after he sat down with Drysch to do an interview on NBA TV. "I was happy to be part of that."
Now, as he prepares to meet up again with James in Cleveland, Drysch can't help but appreciate how his love of sweepstakes has brought himself and his favorite NBA player back together.
After paying $22,000 in taxes from the $75,000 he won in Miami, Drysch left his job as an information technology worker, settled his bills and traveled to Utah, where he lost both his mother and brother to illnesses within a short period of time.
Drysch figures had it not been for the prize money, he would have never had such an opportunity. After moving back to northern Illinois, Drysch began his job at Snap-On, where mostly younger fellow workers get a kick out of his first meeting with James and the notoriety that came with it.
Outside of winning 12 months worth of cereal, though, Drysch's sweepstakes luck had run dry before learning via email that he would be one of the people to gain the private meeting with James this weekend.
Heading to Cleveland brings his 15 minutes of fame in Miami and all that came with it back into focus, still bringing a smile to Drysch's face.
"It still has meaning," Drysch says. "It was an adventure and it's still an adventure because every time I meet somebody and I tell them about it, it's like it's a big deal."
Occasionally, Drysch finds a playground hoop and tries to re-create the shot that brought his B-list celebrity status. The basketball he used to practice for his big moment in Miami is long gone, having been destroyed by harsh winter conditions, forcing him to buy a new ball bearing a pre-printed image of James' signature.
Although Drysch has thought out what the moment will be like when he sees James this weekend, he doesn't have any specific reaction planned out. He is interested to see what -- if anything -- transpires when he meets James for the second time considering he won't be standing in the middle of a NBA arena filled with 20,000 fans when this weekend's meeting takes place.
For James, who was told this week that Drysch was one of the three winners he will meet this weekend, the idea of reconnecting -- albeit not likely by bear hug this time -- momentarily brings back the memories of the first time Drysch defied the odds.
"I didn't know it was the same guy," James says. "But that's pretty cool."
For Hamman, who has found a way to place odds on nearly every kind of possibility, the idea that Drysch and James will be linked together again -- this time by the My Coke Rewards contest -- doesn't take much time to calculate.
Even given Drysch's propensity for entering online drawings and the lengths he is willing to go to to maximum his chances, Hamman said there is still the element of randomness in "Half Court Mike D" following his big night in Miami with another encounter with the NBA's biggest name.
"He's a contest junkie and I'm sure he had hundreds entries -- maybe thousands of them," Hamman says. "And he got selected by random, dumb luck."
Considering the reward, Drysch will take it -- no matter how it happened.