In March my old team at McClymonds was preparing for the postseason tournament in northern California. Traditionally the team played a tune-up game against a rag-tag team of McClymonds alumni. That year I was the youngest member of the alumni team, only two months out of high school. I remember the game vividly. It was the first time I'd played before a crowd since the Northwest tour, and it was also the first time since the possibility of going to college had entered my life. My moves were elementary to basketball buffs, but they were there that night the way they'd been on the tour. I was showing off—scoring, rebounding, blocking shots. Then, just before half time, something so good happened that it scared me. I got the ball near the basket on offense, went up as high as I could to take a short jump shot, and suddenly realized that I was looking down into the basket. For an instant I was looking over the front edge of the rim to the back, and the basket itself looked like a skinny oval from that perspective.
The sight was so strange that I missed the shot by a couple of feet. My first thought when I landed was that I could hurt myself jumping so high. It was the first time I really became conscious of altitude on the basketball court. Previously I'd thought of jumping only as a matter of time—the time you enjoyed in the air, going up, hanging there, and then coming down. Now I thought of jumping as the distance I had to fall. I had to be at least four feet off the ground in order to have my eye level rise above the rim of a standard ten-foot basket, and I was stunned at the idea that every time I jumped my system had a shock similar to jumping off a four-foot ledge.
But the fear wore off quickly. I was hypnotized by what I'd seen at the top of my jump, and in the second half I did it again. For months later I was mesmerized by those short glimpses down into the basket. I'd stand by myself in an empty gym and jump over and over, looking for that sliver of slight. I got so practiced at it that I trained my eye to see the back edge of the rim as it appeared to rise toward the level of the front edge during my jump. As I slowed down near the top of the jump, the back edge would disappear behind the front when my eye level was even with the rim, and then, for one instant, the back edge would rise above the front edge and I'd see down into the basket.
Leaping high had hooked me. Two years later, during the off-season at USF, some friends and I tested how high I could reach from a running start. I left chalk dust from my fingertips at a point fourteen feet above the floor—four feet above the basket and a foot above the top of the backboard.
I loved jumping. It would have been easy for me to dunk the ball even in a twelve foot basket, and a lot of the tall players in pro basketball wouldn't have any trouble either, so the proposals that are circulated from time to time to help the shorter players by raising the basket to twelve feet are silly. If you want to help shorter players, put the basket nearer to the floor. If it's more like a hockey goal, the height advantage will diminish. As long as the basket is above our reach, height and leaping will be rewarded. The game is designed to make its players reach into the air.
Originally Posted by Bill Russell
Originally Posted by CavaliersFTW
1955 Sports Illustrated:
6' 9 5/8": "Don't call me 6-foot-10, I'm enough of a goon as it is."
Thus explaining why he was listed 6-10 early in his career as a collegiate athlete and Olympic athlete, but only 6-9 as a professional.
Sports Illustrated 1955
The book: "The Rivalry"
Hand length: 10.5"
The book: "The Rivalry"
Hand width: 9.5"
(using photoshop grid deduction based on 10.5" hand length... will post image later)
Career playing weight range: 215-240lbs
Prime playing weight range: 222-228lbs
(Various newspapers and self-admission)