Those Were the Days: The End of an Era

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Things Change. I have determined at age 85 ... there will always be new things in the works, “old things” discarded and give way to new thoughts and ideas, maybe even “re-created.”

This idea came to me as I thought about a basketball player with a team I played on. His name is Jon Oden, and he played on the 1953 Harvester basketball team of Pampa, Texas.

Both Jon and I were fortunate enough to have the legendary coach, Clifton McNeely, an outstanding student ofthe game of basketball. Now think back with me ... basketball wasn’t invented until1891 when they used peach baskets for the “rims,” how else do you think the game got its name? The “dribble” came later, as did the size of the rim, the ball, the court, the lane, etc., and the different ways to shoot the ball. The first basketballs had laces like a football. They also had a bladder inside, similar to a tire intertube, to keep the air in them. According to Coach Mac, the shots were the scoop shot, the running set shot, the hook shot, and the two-handed set shot. NOTICE I did not list the jump shot or standing one-handed set shot. The first ball was a volleyball thrown at the basket, like a baseball! The game progressed and was introduced to the world at the Berlin Olympics in 1936.

As basketball grew and changed from year to year, McNeely was a designer of new plays, offensive and defensive. For example, Coach Mac never shot a jump shot, but he was one of the first to add it to the game.

He was only eight or nine when he developed his love for the sport around 1929 or 1930. Mac picked up a ball about the size of a volleyball, and his basket was a bucket with the bottom cut out, nailed to a tree. By 1947, his senior year at Wesleyan College in Ft. Worth, the “shot” was the two-handed set shot. Coach taught all the shots I listed, and every player was shooting the scoop shot for a free throw in 1953. One time Coach shot with the team and hit 48 out of 50 shots, and he was blindfolded!

Now, I point this out to return to my friend, Jon Oden, the last Harvester to shoot the two-hand-over-the-head set shot. He was one ofthe dying breeds. Jon was shooting this unique shot in junior high, and by the time he was a senior, he very seldom missed. In 1953, Pampa went to their first State Tournament, and Jon hit 6 of 7 shots in the first game, and for our championship game, he hit 7 of 8! You could tell when and what kind of shot an offensive player was about to shoot and sometimes block it. But with Jon’s shot, no one could tell what he would do. So they never blocked his shot! Because of these skills, Jon was selected to be on the All-State Team.

Jon is now a retired attorney from Amarillo. He still wears a flat top, which was a popular haircut for athletes at that time. He currently lives in Wylie, Texas, close to his daughter.

Due to the ungodly salaries paid to the “pros,” .. .it’s time for them to get new challenges. My Recommendations:

1) increase the length ofthe court to 100 feet

2) widen the court to 50 feet

3) widen the lane

4) raise the rim to 11 feet

5) move the three-point shot another ten feet out,

6) and bring back THE TWO-HAND SET SHOT! Aha-a-a, those were the days!

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