NBA : Kenny Sailors, the inventor of the jump shot (videos)


By Giannis Rammas /

Few know who he was. And yet, everyone knows what he did for basketball. Even if they do not know how he did it. After all, he never advertised himself.

“I have done many other things more important than the jump shot.”

What were these many other most important? Only he and those for whom he did know them. Nevertheless, basketball owes him forever.

Kenneth Lloyd Sailors passed away on January 30, 2016 at the age of 95 (January 14, 1921), but not before leaving the sport a legacy for a lifetime.

Half and half with his brother, Bad, in a sense. He was the one who, as older and taller in this case, pushed him to exceed his limits in whatever they did, together or separately. The scene could not have been different when they were playing basketball on their parents’ farm in Hillsdale, Wyoming. At 1.70m, he, 1.95m, his brother.

“I had to think of something to shoot at him.”

And he thought.

At a time when everyone was carrying the ball to their chest to shoot, 13-year-old Kenny thought of something beyond that.

Obviously the jump shot technique needed a lot of work in the beginning, at least he was small and he still had time ahead of him. He developed it in high school, perfected it in college, in fact, in 1943 he won the NCAA Championship as “NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player”.

From those years in the Wyoming Cowboys holds and the most characteristic photo-documentary of the innovation he introduced in the sport. Eric Saal of LIFE Magazine was courtside at Madison Square Garden for the game between January 21, 1946 and the right man, in the right place at the right time. to immortalize the jump shot in its most complete form.

“Having been fired by the Marines in late 1945, Kenny found himself back in Madison Square Garden in the following days.

One is Kenny Sailors’ shot that remains historic.

He had stolen the ball and was running on the floor from the left. As soon as he approached the top of the racket, he cut to the right, stopped abruptly and jumped.

The spectators in the courtside positions were left to watch him get up as if he would reach the scoreboard. Jumping to the top and hovering in Madison Square Garden, he painted a curve up to the basket. Shortly before taking his left hand off the ball to shoot, a photographer’s flash exploded silently.

To the 18,056 spectators, the flash exploded as if Kenny Sailors froze in the air, while the others below looked at him in amazement like statues.

Two weeks later ‘LIFE’ magazine published the photo from the game. Millions of children saw this photo with Kenny’s jump shot and it caused a chain reaction in basketball. “In all the stadiums, young children started jumping to shoot.”

This is how John Christgau remembers them in his book “The Origins of the Jump Shot” (1999), in which he acknowledges several fathers of the jump shot, but none with the acceptance of Kenny Sailors.

After the farm in Hillsdale where he invented the jump shot, after high school and college for the first time (1940-43) where he worked to present it to the world, after the Marines (1943-45) where he flew B-25 bombers over the southern Pacific Ocean in World War II and after returning to college (1945-46) it was time to recommend jump shot to professional basketball as well.

“When I entered the NBA, everyone was shooting with both hands. I was the freak, I shot with one hand “.

He played in the BAA and the NBA since 1946 and retired in 1951 at the age of 30, to devote himself to his family and whatever else pleased him, to return to nature and organize hunting and fishing trips as a true cowboy, to trains younger ages, not necessarily boys but also girls, to teach history in school.

So his careers at Cleveland Rebels, Chicago Stags, Philadelphia Warriors, Providence Stimrolers, Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics and Baltimore Bulls did not count more than 276 games with 12.6 points and for that it never became a Hall of Famer, although it should, maybe that’s why it never became as famous as it should have been. And he had to.

Steve Carey tried to change the latter from the position of producer with the documentary “Jump Shot: The Kenny Sailors Story” (2019) directed by Jacob Hamilton. It was the least she could do for him changed the sport and the lives of many, including his own.

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