Former NBA player Kenny Sailors is credited with pioneering the modern jump shot. Growing up on a farm in Wyoming, he played basketball with his older brother, which required him to find a new way to shoot the ball. (Until then, shots were taken with two hands from chest level while the player stood on the ground.)
Kenny went on to become a three-time all-American at the University of Wyoming and later played a few years of professional basketball. He was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.
Kenny, who never explicitly claimed credit for inventing the jump shot, told StoryCorps he likes Ray Meyers (DePaul University’s famed coach) explanation of his place in history best, “Sailors might not have been the first player to jump in the air and shoot the ball, but he developed the shot that is being used today.”
Kenny came to StoryCorps with his friend, Anne Brande, in July 2008, to talk about his early life and the lasting fame the jump shot has brought him. (Kenny Sailors passed away on January 30, 2016 at the age of 95.)
Originally aired October 24, 2008, on NPR’s Morning Edition.