Kenny Sailors: Basketball’s Best Kept Secret

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Without having any NBA live games to watch, many basketball fans are enjoying the recent release of the documentary “The Last Dance”  It’s a ten-part series being broadcast on ESPN which chronicles the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls NBA season.  It would turn out to be Michael Jordan’s final season with the Bulls.  There’s another film release that hasn’t received the same kind of fanfare but if you have the opportunity to watch it, it may be worth your while.

That documentary tells the story of Kenny Sailors.  You may nor have heard of him, but he’s influenced the way basketball is played today.  His style has been adopted into the games’ greatest players including Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, Stephen Curry, and even Jordan.

According to this film, Sailors is credited for popularizing the jump shot as an alternative to the two-handed, set-shot which was common in the 1930s to 50s.  The film is titled Jump Shot.  Curry, serves as the executive producer and it features interviews with Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki, Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight, Hall of Fame player Nancy Lieberman and current NBA superstar Kevin Durant.

Sailors played his college basketball at the University of Wyoming where he led the Cowboys to an NCAA championship in 1943 and was named the college player of the year.  After serving in World War II.  He returned to school and won the same award for the 1946 season.

He would play five seasons, bouncing around to seven different teams, of professional basketball starting in the BAA (Basketball Association of America) before that league would merge into what is known today as the NBA. After retiring from the league, Sailors and his family would move to Alaska where he would coach high school basketball but his college and pro legacy would soon fade away.

Sailors was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 95.  Jump Shot was to be released in US theatres on April 2nd.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, its premiere released online instead this past weekend, with 10% of the proceeds going towards COVID-19 relief.

This documentary is not only intended to tell his story, but it also hopes to serve as support by many in the basketball community to have him be an inductee for the Naismith Pro Basketball Hall of Fame for his contribution to how the sport is played today.

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