I compare the evolution from the stationary shooting in Baskeball to the Jump shot to the evolution from stationary erg to dynamic erg. I know that many coaches and rowers are not open to change as many coaches were against John Miller Cooper first jump shot in 1931. John once described his historic basketball innovation this way: “My feet left the hardcourt surface, and it felt good. It was free and natural, and I knew I had discovered something.”
“He did it to shoot over taller opponents,” Cooper’s son Jack said. “Over time, he was proud of his contribution. It changed the game — made it more athletic, attracted better athletes and produced a more exciting style of play. It thrilled spectators, even seemed kind of dangerous.”
Watching basketball at any level today, one would find it hard to imagine that someone needed to invent the jump shot. It is easily the most pervasive and accepted way to shoot the basketball and has been for decades. But when James Naismith created basketball in 1891, and for 40 years thereafter, jumping and shooting was simply not done on any of the nation’s prominent college or professional basketball courts. There was an orthodoxy to the game, and it preached multiple quick passes and favored shooting from a standing position with two hands held chest high.
Jack Cooper said his father told him that the first time he tried his jump shot at the University of Missouri, the coach took him out of the game, sat him on the bench and ordered, “Don’t ever do that again.”
“And my dad didn’t do it for a while,” Jack Cooper said. “It was a rule, and it was a time in America when rules didn’t get broken.”
These rules had been conveyed by the unofficial powers of early-20th-century basketball, all of them based in the metropolitan areas of Boston, New York and Philadelphia. The Northeast game — basketball was invented in Massachusetts and refined in sports meccas like Madison Square Garden — dictated patience, with players passing the ball in rapid succession until someone had a close open shot.
Players made one-handed, leaping layups and left their feet to rebound or block shots. But no one more than five feet from the hoop who faced the basket would lift two feet to shoot the ball. And if someone did, he would be ridiculed or scolded into conformity.
Cooper, who eventually convinced his coach of the jump shot’s value by making dozens of them in practice, led the Big Six Conference in scoring in 1932. His innovative shooting technique — using two hands to shoot as he jumped vertically with both feet from 15 feet or more —
“The jump shot obviously had a big impact on the game,” Johnson said. “You can tell by the field-goal percentages.”
Although the N.C.A.A. began its tournament in 1939, it did not record shooting percentages until 1948, when players nationwide made only 29.3 percent of their shots from the field during the regular season.
“The jump shot was just gaining ground at that point,” Johnson said. “But after that, there was no turning back.”A version of this article appeared in print on April 3, 2011, on page SP6 of the New York edition