God, Fame, and Basketball

Kenny, a ninety-one-year-old Wyoming native, is widely credited as the inventor of the jump shot. After being told by his brother that he was too short to play basketball, five-foot-seven Kenny thought to jump up with the ball in order to score despite his height. His innovative tactic led him to a pro career in the NBA, where he found fame and success. But along the way, Kenny learned there are more important things in life than sports. Over the near-century of his life, Kenny found one thing stood the test of time: God. Hear his story here.

Questions for Discussion and Personal Reflection

  1. What things in life have completely satisfied you? Anything? (Alternate question: What things in life would satisfy you?)
  2. How does one's sense of eternity affect their view of satisfaction in this life?

Come on, you guys! You know I can't bend over. When I got into the NBA, nearly everybody shot two-handed when it started out. I didn't. I was the freak. I shot them one-handed, you know. My brother was a good ballplayer and a good athlete, and, uh, we'd play one on one. And I never could get a shot off, and he really enjoyed that because he was 6'5" and I was just about, I don't know 5'7", probably. He used to tell me that you better find another game. This isn't your game. It's for big men, tall men. High on the board, Sailors! Somehow the idea come to me is if when I jump up— and I knew I could jump— I jump straight up, bring the ball up right over my head, and I, I let it go, and the thing went in. He had, his feet was on the ground. He hadn't even left the floor. And he said, "Kenny, you may have something there." He says, "You better develop that shot." It took years. It didn't just happen overnight to get my jump shot, but it was the idea behind it. Kids in their community started trying to imitate that shot as soon as they saw it in Life Magazine. And I've had people tell me, even ballplayers tell me, that that's the first picture I ever saw of a jump shot. If you look, everybody is bound to the floor—their feet— except mine, and that was, that was one of the standard rules in my day was on defense or on offense, you never left the floor.
Every, every time he comes in here, somebody knows him. Yeah. He's pretty popular.

I'm not popular. That jump shot's popular.

He doesn't really take credit for it. He really doesn't.

Well, who'd know who's the first kid that jumped in the air and shot a basketball?

Just take it and run with it.

You know, who would possibly know? Ray Meyer from DePaul who coached there for many, many years, he said it the best I think, "Sailors may not have been the first player jump in the air and shoot the ball, but he developed the shot that's being used today." In 1943, we won the NCAA, we beat the champions of the NIT, we beat the national service student champion, and we beat the national AAU champions, Phillips 66. There wasn't anybody else to beat. I went as far as I could go in basketball, but that still wasn't enough so I went into the pros and played long enough to get a pension in the NBA. Basketball was, uh, was just about my whole life when I was growing up. As I've gotten older and the good Lord has shown me that there's far more things more important than just sports or basketball. That's my girl. Sixty years of my life, I spent with that girl. My wife and I had a wonderful marriage, and it lasted a long time. Uh, we enjoyed living with each other, we enjoyed our family. I don't know how it could've been any better. She contacted this, uh— what do you call it— dementia and, uh, gradually, you lose your memory of things way back. The doctors told me she wasn't going to be around too much longer. Mmm. It's tough, but the Lord gives you strength that you don't even know where it comes from. He just gives you the strength to go through most anything. As an old man 90 years of age, I've experienced much in my lifetime, and all of it wasn't good, and certainly all of it wasn't bad. But one thing that has stood the test of time is God. He has satisfied me in a way that all the fame and success could never do. Nothing does compare with my experience with Christ in the life that I've had in him. There's nothing in this world that can even come close to it. I'm not in the Hall of Fame. So far, I've never made it. if I were to make the Hall of Fame today, oh, you know, it, it'd be nice. I mean, I'm a human being, just like everybody else. But I know I belong to the greatest Hall of Fame that any man or woman can ever belong to. And when you belong to that, and you know you belong to it, you don't worry about these halls of fame that men created down here. It don't mean that much to you.