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Culture Documentary

Once-in-a-generation basketball innovation

(Ralph Smyth Entertainment)


Once-in-a-generation basketball innovation

Jump Shot explores a sport-changing move

Once a generation, an athlete changes a sport with an unexpected innovation. Steph Curry didn’t invent the 3-point shot, but his accuracy and range changed basketball.

Who first transitioned from the easily blocked two-handed set shot to the jump shot, now a staple of modern basketball? The new documentary Jump Shot, which Curry produced, examines the life and innovations of Kenny Sailors.

Sailors grew up in  Hillsdale, Wyo., in the 1930s. His older brother’s 6-foot-5-inch height made baskets impossible for the 5-foot-7-inch younger brother. Sailors’ first jump shot was a revelation: “I jumped up high enough, out of my dribble, brought the ball up right over my head, and I let it go. And the thing went in!”

Seeing current professionals watch footage of Sailors sprinting the floor, dribbling, and firing a modern jump shot is fascinating. They seem amazed that someone playing in the 1940s was so far ahead of his time.

Sailors won a championship with the University of Wyoming in 1943, served in the Marines during World War II, then played in the fledgling NBA a few seasons. He moved to Alaska and became an inspirational high-school teacher and girls’ basketball coach, a renowned hunting guide, and a faithful husband and father. But all folks wanted to ask about was his jump shot. Interviewed in his 90s, he seemed at peace: “It’s nice to know who you are, and where you’re going when you leave this world.”

Jump Shot is available at, and I can recommend it as enjoyable fare for all ages.