It Was One of the First Viral Videos. Now, All the Answers

Brian Feldman at Defector digs in to a classic clip of a kid getting hit with a basketball
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 30, 2022 10:50 AM CDT

(Newser) – There's a decent chance you've seen the clip somewhere over the past quarter-century or so, given that it is, as Brian Feldman writes in the Defector, "a watershed moment in the history of the internet." Watch it here. It shows a high school basketball player launching an attempt at a buzzer-beater, only it falls short and bonks a little kid on the head who happens to be running by at precisely the wrong moment. And it's OK to laugh, because as Feldman's wildly entertaining story reveals, the kid (now 32) was fine, and he thinks the video is funny, too. In a nifty bit of internet sleuthing, Feldman has managed to find out pretty much everything you'd want to know about this clip, including the identity of the teen who threw the ball as well as the kid who got hit, where and when the game was played, and so on. He also susses out the clip's place in the pantheon of early internet classics.

In the first clue, a comment buried in one of the many modern threads about the clip pointed Feldman to the high school—the Shipley School in the Philadelphia area. He tracked down former principal Steve Piltch, who remembered the clip very well because it was his son, Matthew, who was hit during the 1995 game. Matthew doesn't remember much about the moment itself, but he's now happy about his role in the video, one that predated YouTube and actually first appeared on America's Funniest Videos. Feldman also discovers the identity of the thrower, Shipley player Niels Pennings. "Of course, I felt horrible," Pennings recalls. "He was crying, and I ran over to him to see if he was OK." The story goes beyond these details and examines how a digitized version of the AFV clip found life on sites such as eBaum's World—becoming a viral video before viral videos were a thing. (Read it here.)

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