It can be argued that the current NBA dynasty has been built on the seemingly simple act of the jump shot. Arenas across America are routinely transfixed by the wonders of Steph Curry and his Golden State Warriors as they cover the sky with three-point attempts and load their trophy case with championships and other accolades. While the act may seem simple, its history is a bit murky. Several people have claimed to inventing the jump shot, including Hank Luisetti. The product of Galileo High School and Stanford University became a national sensation when he developed the "running one-handed shot". This is his story.
Angelo-Giuseppi "Hank" Luisetti was born on June 16, 1916 in San Francisco, California to an Italian who had arrived in the city shortly after the Great Earthquake of 1906. After spending time clearing rubble from the damaged city, Hank Luisetti's father opened an Italian restaurant on Market Street, operating it until his death. As a child, Hank Luisetti developed his unique one-handed jump-shot as a necessity due to his inability to reach the basket with a two-handed approach. The style proved to bear fruit as he led Galileo High School to city championships in 1933 and 1934, earning a scholarship to Stanford University.
Stanford and Legacy
In Hank Luisetti's freshman year, Stanford went 9-17 while he mired on the freshman squad. The following year, the team had an incredible turnaround, winning 22 games and losing seven while Luisetti averaged 14.3 points per game, earning recognition as an All American. The following year, Stanford lost just two games and earned the national championship while Hank Luisetti was named All-America for the second consecutive year.
On December 30 of that year, Stanford visited Madison Square Garden to face off against a Long Island University squad that was riding a 43-game winning streak. In front of more than 17,000 rabid fans, Hank Luisetti put on a tremendous performance, scoring 15-points while Stanford upset the nation's top-rated team 45-31. It was performances such as this that helped Luisetti earn the Helm Player of the Year award at the conclusion of that season.
In the 1937-1938 season, Stanford went 21-3 while Hank Luisetti again averaged more than 17 points per game and earned recognition as an All American for the third straight year and Helm Player of the Year for the second straight season. On January 1 of his senior season, Hank Luisetti became the first college player to score 50 points in a game. On that night in a Cleveland gym, Luisetti could do no wrong, scoring again and again against an overmatched Duquesne squad. In those days, it was common for entire teams to fail to score 50 and Duquesne was no different, scoring just 27 points to Stanford's 92.
When he graduated, Hank Luisetti was generally recognized as one of the innovators of the modern game and his unique way of scoring was already being copied in gyms across America. In 1950, the Associated Press named him the second greatest player in the first half of the century, just behind the Minneapolis Laker's George Mikan. Luisetti's 1,596 points in three years on varsity were the national record at the time of his graduation and he continued to contribute to the game with his name recognition proving to be a major draw for recruits. Eventually, Stanford would win another national championship in 1942, thanks in no small part to their status as being Hank Luisetti's alma mater.
After graduation with professional basketball still in its infancy and the NBA nearly a decade away from being born, Hank Luisetti tried his hand in Hollywood. However, he hated the experience and the film, Campus Confessions, was a flop. Thus became the end of his brief foray in the world of the silver screen.
In the years before World War II, he bounced around the AAU circuit for a while, playing for teams such as the Philadelphia 66ers and the Saint Mary's Pre-Flight. He joined the Navy during the war but developed spinal meningitis and was discharged. After the war, he turned down offers to play professionally but did take up the chance to coach the Stewart Chevrolets to the 1951 AAU championship. He spent the majority of his working life in the travel business and retired from E.F. McDonald Co. at the age of 65. Hank Luisetti passed away on December 17, 2002 at the age of 86, an innovator hardly remembered but immeasurably valued.