Kenny Sailors, Credited with Inventing Jump Shot, Dies at Age 95
Basketball pioneer Kenny Sailors, who has been credited with inventing the modern-day jump shot, died at 95 years old Saturday, the Wyoming Cowboys men’s basketball program announced.
“The University of Wyoming has lost one of its great heroes and ambassadors with the death of Kenny Sailors,” University of Wyoming President Dick McGinity said. “As the entire university community mourns his passing and celebrates his life, we offer our thoughts and prayers to his family.”
A standout at Wyoming, Sailors helped put the school’s basketball program on the map as he led the Cowboys to the 1942-43 NCAA championship while becoming the fifth-ever winner of the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player Award, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
In a 2015 interview with CBS Sports’ Brad Botkin, Sailors explained that he was motivated to develop the jump shot because his older brother, Bud, was 6’5″ and repeatedly blocked his shots during their individual battles:
So one day, finally, I guess the good Lord just put it in my head that if I jumped up higher than [Bud], and if he didn’t time everything just right and jump up with me, he couldn’t block my shot. So that’s what I did. 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.
Following his historic stretch at Wyoming, the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Famer went on to play five seasons at the professional level with the Cleveland Rebels, Chicago Stags, Philadelphia Warriors, Providence Steam Rollers, Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics and Baltimore Bullets.
As he bounced around from team to team from 1946 to 1951, Sailors averaged 12.6 points and 2.8 assists per game. Following the 1948-49 Basketball Association of America campaign, Sailors earned second-team All-BAA honors while posting 15.8 points per contest.