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’12 Hoops Hall of Fame class features guy who invented the jumper

Mar 6, 2012, 3:22 PM EDT

Credit: University of Wyoming Credit: University of Wyoming

The College Basketball Hall of Fame announced its 10-member class of 2012 on Tuesday, complete with names familiar to any fan.

Such as Patrick Ewing of Georgetown, North Carolina’s Phil Ford, former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall, Earl Monroe from Winston-Salem State and Willis Reed of Grambling. Older fans will know Ex-Virginia Union coach Dave Robbins and Kansas star Clyde Lovellette. Businessman Jim Host and Joe Dean are in as contributors.

But the guy I’m most psyched to see inducted? Former Wyoming star Kenny Sailors, the man who invented the jump shot. (Photo credit: University of Wyoming.)

What? Invented the jumper? You read that correctly.

Sailors led Wyoming to the 1943 NCAA title and was a first-team All-American that season (and is rightfully revered in the state as a legend). But it was a LIFE magazine story that helped cement the impression of his lasting contribution to the game. From “The Origins of the Jump Shot:”

Discharged from the Marines in late 1945, Kenny . . . within days . . . found himself in Madison Square Garden again. One shot by Kenny Sailors . . . remains historic . . . . He had stolen a pass and then raced down the left side of the floor . . . . At the top of the key, he cut to his right and then stopped suddenly and jumped. Courtside spectators in folding chairs watched as he seemed to rise up into the scoreboard . . . . Now, at the peak of his jump and hanging-in-the-air in Madison Square Garden, he drew a bead on the basket . . . . Just before he dropped his left hand away to release the shot, a photographer’s flashbulb exploded silently. To the 18,056 fans who were watching, the flashbulb explosion seemed to freeze Kenny Sailors in the air, while beneath him men as floor-bound as statuary looked up in awe. Two weeks later Life Magazine ran a photo story of the game . . . . millions of young players saw that picture of Kenny’s jump shot in Life, and that . . . began a chain reaction in basketball . . . . Everywhere young players on basketball courts began jumping to shoot.

Overstated? Possibly. Sailors wouldn’t be the first person to be wrongly credited with something someone else did first. But he got the press and, for the most part, the attention as the first guy who decided staying on the ground when one shot the ball was a dumb idea.

I’d say that’s worth a spot in the hall of fame.

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