Wyoming legend Kenny Sailors, pioneer of the jump shot, dies at 95

Kenny Sailors is regarded as an innovator of the modern jump shot. (USATSI)

Kenny Sailors, a trailblazer for the modern jump shot, died Saturday at the age of 95. According to the University of Wyoming, the Hall of Famer died in his sleep at an assisted living center in Wyoming.

“He touched so many lives,” Wyoming Athletic Director Tom Burman said in an official statement. “For years after he moved back to Laramie, he would come to Cowboy and Cowgirl practices and games. He was a great mentor for our student-athletes.”

Sailors was National Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament while leading Wyoming to the 1943 NCAA title. When the Wyoming native was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, Sailors was honored not only for his efforts with the Cowboys but for being one of the first to utilize the modern jump shot.

CBS Sports’ Brad Botkin covered Sailors’ story in a great long form, titled “Birth of the Jump Shot” in Feb. 2015. Sailors re-told the story of needing to shoot over his brother, Bud, who was five years older and eight inches taller than him at the time.

“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,” Sailors said at the time. “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. 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.’ So from that point forward, that’s pretty much what I did. I worked on that shot every chance I got.”

Sailors’ college career was interrupted by a tour with the Marines in South Pacific during World War II, but he returned to Wyoming and earned All-American honors before a brief NBA career that ended in 1951.

READ MORE: Kenny Sailors and “The Birth of the Jump Shot”


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