Matt Bonner was in line at a local deli not long ago, preparing to do the thing he does second-best — put together a primo sandwich — when the sub artiste stopped him mid-order.
The man behind the counter interrupted to boast he’d just joined the Twitter movement bent on getting Bonner, the flame-haired Spurs’ forward, into the NBA’s annual 3-point contest.
“He told me he had ‘hashtagged’ me,” the social media-shy Bonner said. “So I had to look up what ‘hashtag’ meant.”
The campaign — #LetBonnerShoot — began as a joint venture between Bonner’s younger brother, Luke, and his friend Dave Hartley, bass player for the indie rock band War on Drugs.
Luke penned a tongue-in-cheek plea for Bonner’s inclusion in the Feb. 16 shootout in Houston during All-Star weekend for the website FlipCollective.com, while Hartley posted a similar message on his band’s website and opened a petition online at change.org.
When Hartley first broached the possibility of starting an Internet drive on his behalf, Matt Bonner didn’t think much would come of it.
“My first thought was, ‘War on Drugs is a great band, but they’re not U2,’?” said Bonner, 32.
In short order, the grassroots effort spread like digital wild fire, attracting support from names as varied as New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, actress Eva Longoria and members of the musical group Arcade Fire, another Bonner favorite.
Last week, the movement went mainstream, with Luke Bonner granting an interview to NBA TV, and his older brother talking with ESPN during the national broadcast of Saturday’s Spurs-Dallas game.
Though the #LetBonnerShoot movement is not what you’d call high-minded — the Bonners aren’t aiming to end poverty or cure rickets — its goal is to right what many in the Spurs’ organization view as an annual injustice.
Though perennially one of the NBA’s top 3-point shooters, with a career success rate of 41.6 percent, Bonner has never been asked to participate in the league’s annual All-Star weekend extravaganza.
The Spurs have not had a shooter in the 3-point contest since 2009, when Roger Mason Jr. participated in Phoenix.
“I think that’s messed up,” point guard Tony Parker said. “Matt Bonner’s one of the best shooters in the NBA. I’ve seen him in practice go 50 for 50. I think he’d win it. He’s a machine."
There are two ways for Bonner to make this year’s field. He can be selected the old-fashioned way, by the NBA’s basketball operations department.
Or, he could be chosen as an at-large participant by a to-be-determined Western Conference captain, as part of a new East-vs.-West format to this season’s All-Star Saturday Night festivities.
If Bonner were to score an invitation to this year’s contest, it could be justified as a career achievement nod.
“For him not to ever have been in it, I am surprised,” guard Danny Green said. “This year it’s a little understandable, because of the (lack of) attempts. Every other year, he’s had the attempts and he’s had the percentages. I don’t see why he’s never been in the contest.”
Having been passed over with better percentages before — at the 2011 All-Star break, he was shooting 45.7 percent —Bonner won’t get his hopes up.
Yet as a longtime Boston Celtics fan, Bonner would relish the chance to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Larry Bird, who won the first three NBA long-distance shootouts from 1986-88 in a hail of sharpshooting and trash talking.
If selected, Bonner has vowed — perhaps (hopefully) jokingly — to grow a mullet and mustache and don ’80s-style short shorts in Bird’s honor. (Note to Bonner: This is not helping your cause).
However he gets in, and however he’s dressed, participating in the 3-point contest would be a lifelong dream come true for Bonner.
“From a selfish, egotistical, personal angle, this is it for me,” Bonner said. “I’m never going to make the All-Star team. I always get looked over for the dunk contest. For me, the 3-point contest is what I do. It’s what I hang my hat on in the NBA.
“So it would be great to participate, even if I go 1 for 25, just to be able to say I was selected as one of the best shooters in the league.”
Jeff McDonald/S.A. Express-News