If you have ever seen a basketball game, you’ve seen hundreds of your favorite players make a jumpshot. I don’t know about you, but I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t see one executed by Michael Jordan, Lebron James or even Jumpshot documentary Executive Producer Steph Curry. The reality is the very first jumpshot EVER was executed by Laramie, Wyoming native Kenny Sailors in 1943 during the Wyoming NCAA Championships. It was such a revelation that the moment was caught in a photo by LIFE Magazine.
“In 1945-46 Wyoming University came into the Garden with a kid named Kenny Sailors, who unveiled a new weapon – the jump shot. The shot was a sensation and has been basketball‟s chief scoring weapon ever since . . . . The one-hand jump shot is the most popular shot in the history of the game”
Hall of Fame coach and player, Joe Lapchick
Why isn’t Sailors a household name? Not everyone was a fan of Sailors or the jumpshot. NY columnist Jimmy Breslin proclaimed that the jumpshot ruined basketball. And then this…shortly after the championship, Sailors left the game when his wife Marilyn became ill. In an effort to prolong the life of his beloved, Sailors moved to Alaska. There, he became instrumental in developing teams with female players all over the state. He played basketball everyday and was shrewd in his game strategy, which he passed on to younger players eager to learn from the jovial legend. During his heyday, there were only 18 players in the NBA netting $7500K for the season.
Sailors never played for a winning team. Many of his peers and constituents believed his contribution of the ‘jumpshot’ alone should have been grounds for his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Many campaigned hard for exactly that in 2015 and the committee denied the request. Kenny Sailors pass away at 95 years old on January 30, 2016, a few weeks after his birthday. His memorial was held on his homecourt in Wyoming and in 2017 a bigger-than-life bronze statue was erected in his honor.
Not being a huge basketball fan, I was appalled to see that someone who made such a large contribution to the game had not been honored by the very league he was devoted to. It’s a slap in the face to watch them acknowledge others with that distinction or some who are inducted simply because of their fame/status in the game. Directed by Jacob Hamilton, Jumpshot is a love letter from Steph Curry, the State of Wyoming and all those players yet to come who will now know the origin of the greatest move to ever be introduced to the game of basketball. Jumpshot will play one last time at SXSW on March 13th.