Wyoming basketball legend Kenny Sailors passed away on Saturday. He was 95. Kenny Sailors was credited with being the inventor of the modern day jump shot. Kenny was born January 14, 1921 in Bushnell, Nebraska. He led Wyoming to the 1943 NCAA Championship and was named the player of the year that same season. Prior to his death he was the oldest living national player of the year. In 2012 he was named to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
After Kenny Sailors helped lead the Cowboys to the 1943 national championship he enlisted in the Marines and served for two years in the South Pacific during World War II. Once Sailors was finished with his Marine Corps stint he returned to Laramie and played again for the Cowboy basketball team in 1945-46 and earned All-American honors. He was twice named a consensus All-American. Sailors retired from professional basketball in 1951 and lived his life as a hunting and fishing guide in Wyoming and Alaska.
Sailors was a large influence on young people during his time in Alaska. He helped bring girls basketball into public schools and was the founder of the first girls state basketball tournament in the state. His team won three straight championships which included a 68 game winning streak at one point.
Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman had some thoughts on Sailors saying, “He touched so many lives. For years after he moved back to Laramie, he would come to Cowboy and Cowgirl practices and games. He was a great mentor for our student-athletes. I know the people of Wyoming, like all of us in Wyoming Athletics, will miss him, but we are grateful that we had the opportunity to know him for so many years.”
Many Wyoming basketball players, current and past, were mentored in some way by Sailors. He was a great role model for the Wyoming basketball program.
Saddened to learn about the passing of Kenny Sailors. Honored to have worked with him on the Cowboy Up book. A life well lived. #GoWyo
— Ryan Thorburn (@GoWyoPokes) January 30, 2016
Kenny Sailors impact on basketball? Invented modern day jumper, gave credibility to NCAA tournament, introduced women's basketball to Alaska
— Tracy Ringolsby (@TracyRingolsby) January 30, 2016
— Jonathan Barnes (@JBBDAMAN) January 30, 2016
— Swish. (@Trey5Works) January 30, 2016
Sailors is survived by his son Dan, eight grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren, and one great great grandchild. His services are pending.