Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated has a column entitled “Can special basketball shoes really make you jump higher?” about sneaks for basketball that are supposed to add several inches to one’s hops. His lukewarm first-person review leaves one wondering about the benefits of the shoes (and, personally, I’d bet on his recommendation that it’s likely to be more beneficial to bite the proverbial bullet and invest in working out rather than seeking an artificial, quick fix for jumping woes).
But here’s what caught my interest about this story: There was no mention of Sax Elliott, the 1950s-60s basketball coach whom I remember hearing had created or at least talked about creating shoes with springs in them for his players. I didn’t find additional reference to Mr. Elliott’s innovation in a quick search of the Internet, but I wonder if any readers might have heard this story, too.
Mr. Elliott coached at Los Angeles State College (Now California State University Los Angeles; it’s my alma mater) and was noted for other unusual basketball innovations. In a story about one of them, when John Barber scored 188 points in a single game (“He scored 188 points so his coach could make one“), Jerry Crowe of the Los Angeles Times mentioned the shoe story, but that was about it. As I recall, Mr. Elliott also recruited a huge man from an eastern European country who, when I got to attend a practice as an early adolescent basketball junkie, I saw could stand flatfooted and entwine his finger in the net a few inches below the rim. A year or two later Mr. Elliott recruited a marvelously gifted Japanese athlete who had speed, hops, moves….
Anyway, read Mr. Ballard’s “Can special basketball shoes really make you jump higher?,” then get yourself a pair of Connie All-Stars and start skipping rope.