Before the confetti was cleaned up, the All-American was off to war. The Wyoming treasure would return to campus in Laramie and later became one of the NBA's early stars. The journey takes the readers everywhere the Pokes have been from the first national championship in the s to the dazzling Fennis Dembo days. Thorburn, a University of Wyoming graduate, is a sports writer at the Boulder Camera.
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Wind City Books S. Center Street Still shakes a lot of hands when he's out to lunch. His No. As we speak, plans to erect a foot statue of Sailors, which will stand in the arena's entrance, are underway. I've come to understand that more over the years. There's no doubt that Kenny's story is an especially romantic one -- country boy on the farm, playing on a dirt court, shooting on an old iron rim that his brother Bud had nailed to a windmill.
If it were a movie you would put an American flag waving in the background and cue the music, the setting perfectly classic in a tiny, unincorporated Wyoming town called Hillsdale. As best as Sailors can remember, it was when he took that first jumper. He was 13 years old, and as the saying goes, it was indeed necessity, if not outright desperation, that eventually gave birth to his grand invention. He'd swat it back in my face every time. Kenny laughs as he thinks of Bud laughing all those years back, telling his little brother he should "find another sport," that he was too small for a big man's game.
I ran right up to him and jumped straight out of the dribble, and I shot it one-handed, because I found that I could get more height that way. I remember the first time I did it, Bud said to me, 'Kenny, that's a pretty good shot. You ought to try to develop that. I worked on that shot every chance I got. With no model to emulate, Sailors spent most of his time serving as his own guinea pig, working out the kinks of an experimental action.
There were so many moving parts -- the two-foot takeoff, the squaring of the shoulders, the shooting elbow rising tightly against his ribs to a high, soft release.
College hoops legend Sailors dies at age 95 | lacochecalro.cf
But for Sailors, the biggest problem came after the shot. Needless to say, he figured it out.
He had blossomed into a natural athlete, all-state in both football and basketball, state champ in the long jump and the mile. In the fall of , Sailors opted to take his game, along with this so-called jump shot, to the University of Wyoming to play for legendary coach Everett Shelton -- who, as it happened, neither encouraged nor discouraged Kenny's shot.
I remember old Dutch Dehnert [Kenny's coach with the Cleveland Rebels of the BAA, the league that preceded the NBA] said to me, 'Sailors, that shot of yours will never work at this level,' and he actually stopped playing me," Sailors recalled. It was a good decision on Shelton's part. The Cowboys became a force in relatively short order, and from the start it was clear that Sailors, a shooting and dribbling ace, was a player ahead of his time, old newsreel footage depicting a wiry little man operating on fast-forward while everyone else played to the paint-drying pace of the day.
He can leap with a mighty spring and get off that dazzling one-handed shot. Master Kenneth Sailors is one of the handiest hardwood artists ever to trod the boards. There are countless passages like this from over the years, quote after stately quote touting the gamut of Sailors' game, opposing coaches and players marveling at his "wizard" jump shot, "needle-threading" passes and "virtuoso" hands, Bill Roeder of the New York World-Telegram anointing him "the most adroit dribbler in basketball annals.
Mehl covered AAU tournaments for years, which in those days showcased the premier players in the country, and Sailors, he said, was the best player he ever saw. There's truly not a bad word you could say about him," said former Wyoming coach Jim Brandenburg, who led the Cowboys to a Sweet 16 appearance in That man was a competitor. He'd rip your throat out to win. The more people you talk to, the more it seems that this assessment, above all others, cuts closest to the core of who Kenny Sailors is -- half sweet soul, half old-fashioned tough guy.
This is a man, after all, who lived through the Depression. This is an athlete who, in a day and age when it was almost sacrilege to challenge tradition, dared to be different, consistently withstanding the pressure to conform that could've easily crushed his innovative spirit. When people told him that silly jump shot of his would never work, he kept at it.
He believed in what he was doing. I like to say if he had been born a hundred years earlier, he would've been great leading a covered wagon on the Oregon Trail. Schrage, who retired to Wyoming after a career in international affairs, might very well know more about Kenny's life than Kenny does. The two became friends in , and since that time Schrage has poured over Kenny's story, tirelessly researching and documenting nearly a century's worth of information.
Kenny Sailors’ magical jumpshot – a remembrance
We're talking family trees, military records, old newspaper clippings, box scores, stats, awards, photos, quotes -- and it's all meticulously catalogued, every source cited, every story confirmed two, three, four different ways. All told, Krause and Christgau have devoted nearly 15 years of combined research to finding the original modern jump shooter, with the operative word being modern. I wanted proof that a guy gathered, went straight up off two feet, facing the basket, and shot one-handed from an elevated position.
That's the shot we see today," says Krause, who spent more than a decade looking into this, writing and talking to anyone and everyone with even the slightest connection to a supposed original jump shooter -- anyone who could provide any kind of evidence, be it a photograph or verifiable story, that could help get him closer to a conclusion.
But Kenny's shot is the shot we see today. Was he the first? I don't think anyone could ever say that for certain. But what you can say, and I'm very comfortable saying this, is that Kenny was the first player to really develop the jump shot and use it consistently. The jump shot we see today is Kenny's shot.
Christgau concurs with every word of this, though he took a little different approach to his research, breaking the country into eight different regions. So there were probably a number of 'first' shooters in different areas, and I wanted to talk to the people who knew those areas best. There were a lot of names thrown around. Jumpin' Joe Fulks. Bud Palmer, who was a great player with the New York Knicks. So I called Hank, at the time he was living in Burlingame Ca.
I had a running one-hander. If you want to see the shot players use today, look at that famous picture that was in Life magazine, the one of Kenny shooting in Madison Square Garden. That shows it perfectly. That was the shot of the future. To Christgau's point, this iconic photo, published in and showing Kenny in mid-air high above Long Island University defenders, gave real life to a shot that had previously been something of a myth, a whisper in the basketball wind.
Suddenly that picture was spreading around the country like wildfire. Everyone saw it. Christgau vividly remembers seeing it as a kid, and immediately thinking to himself, as though he had just seen Superman streak through the night sky, "Who is that guy? Three years earlier he had stormed the nation's biggest stage, dazzling the New York crowd as Wyoming dethroned powerhouse programs Georgetown and St.