The Origins of the Jump Shot: Eight Men Who Shook the World of Basketball

The Origins of the Jump Shot: Eight Men Who Shook the World of Basketball

The Origins of the Jump Shot: Eight Men Who Shook the World of Basketball

The Origins of the Jump Shot: Eight Men Who Shook the World of Basketball

Synopsis

Before the jump shot, basketball was an earth-bound game. In fact, inventor James Naismith did not originally intend for players to move with the ball. The inspired invention of the dribble first put the ball handler in motion. The jump shot then took the action upward. But where, when, and how did the jump shot originate? Everybody interested in basketball knows the answer to that question. Unfortunately, everybody knows a different answer. John Christgau delves into basketball's evolution, following the supposed inventors of the jump shot to the games in which they first took to the air. He discovers that a number of pioneer players, independently but from the same inspired possibility, can each claim credit for inventing the jump shot.

Excerpt

“Basketball,” the American People's Encyclopedia says, “may dispute baseball's claim as the national game of the U.S., because “basketball” is the only such game that is wholly American in origin.”

Since James Naismith invented the game with peach baskets in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891, the introduction of the jump shot stands as one of the game's most important changes. Where did the remarkable shot come from? Who were its originators? Who were the pioneer players who had the courage to depart from the rigid conventions of the game and leap into the air to shoot?

In January 1996 I set out on what I thought would be a short search with a quick answer. I first interviewed Myer “Whitey” Skoog, the earliest jump shooter I had seen during my boyhood in Minnesota. From there the investigation moved steadily back in time, with earlier and earlier practitioners. Along the way were false leads, sudden turns, dead ends, then new and surprising discoveries. I read in the May 1929 Athletic Journal about a mysterious player from Washington State, described only as “Endslow,” who was “adept at… making a jump, one-hand shot.” An equally mysterious left-hander named “Finnegan” from North Dakota also turned up. Another very early and exciting player hailed from somewhere in Wisconsin, but nobody could recall his name. I was told about a tiny player from Hawaii named Itsu. And there were other candidates with improbable names, like Garland Pinholster and Tennessee Slim. It became a search that threatened to expand with infinite possibilities.

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