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The invention of the jump shot

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 30, 2016

Jump Shot

It is perhaps difficult to believe, but the jump shot was not always a part of basketball. It had to be invented. Rise and Fire by Shawn Fury is the story of that invention, which is still — *cough* Steph Curry — being tinkered with in the lab.

In his short post about the book (he calls it “new and fun”), Tyler Cowen shares this excerpt:

But in March 1963, a month before his final game for the Celtics, [Bob] Cousy complained to the Associated Press, “I think the jump shot is the worst thing that has happened to basketball in ten years.” Cousy’s objections? “Any time you can do something on the ground, it’s better,” he said, sounding very much like a coach who would have enjoyed benching Kenny Sailors or Bud Palmer. “Once you leave the ground, you’ve committed yourself.” Jump shot critics discouraged players from flying into the air because they feared the indecision that came when someone left their feet. They feared the bad passes from players who jumped with no clear plan of what they’d do in the air. Staying grounded meant fewer mistakes. It was simply a safer way to play the game, if not as exciting.

1963 was more than 50 years ago, but well into the modern era in the NBA. (I know, pre-merger, but still. We’re not talking George Mikan here.) Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, and Jerry West were all playing, as was a rookie named John Havlicek, who played for the Celtics until the late 70s.