It was on a spring day in 1934 when a 13-year-old Kenny Sailors first conceived the shot that would spread all over the world. Then he was just a 5-foot-6 kid trying to shoot over his much taller older brother Bud, a star high school athlete in basketball and track.
“He’d swat every shot I’d take, he’d swat it down in my face,” says Sailors, who still carries that easy smile and whose wavy blonde hair has gone white now. “So I got to thinking how on earth can I shoot a ball over that big clown?
“And he’d just laugh, you know. He’d say, ‘Kenny you’re just not big enough to play basketball. You’ve got to be like me.’ He’s 6-5. He says ‘you’re going to have to find another sport.’ "
In 1934, the game revolved around the tall center. After every made basket, the centers would jump ball again, until the rules changed in 1938.
Sailors continues: “And the idea was that, well, if I dribble up to him, don’t get close enough that he can block it. Just dribble up to him. He’s got to back up, or I’m going to go around him. He knew that. And I dribbled up to him and I just stopped and jumped. … So I shot the ball, I don’t know how, maybe I just threw it at the basket (two-handed). But nevertheless, it went in. And he said, ‘Kenny, that’s a good shot, if you can develop it.’”
His coach in the NBA said that will never fly in this league.
Utah led the Cowboys all the way through the game until the final seconds when Sailors cut loose with one of his jumping, one-hand push shots from far out on the court . . . to give Wyoming its 35-33 win.
....Sailors' jump-shot never fails to bring the 'oohs' from the audience....
.....Kenny Sailors had this strange habit. He would dribble across center court, head in to the top of the key and catapult high into the air. He'd hang up there as if suspended by some invisible wires and decide whether to shoot his one-hander or pass off to one of his teammates. That's the way he did it at Wyoming when he was one of the nation's finest basketball players, and now this was the way he was doing it with the Providence Steamrollers in the old BAA...