A Q&A with Jacob Hamilton, the director of “JUMP SHOT” movie

In today’s NBA, the jump shot is an important part of most offensive arsenals, with players like Golden State Warriors stars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson being masters at knocking down jumpers from deep.

As arguably the best shooter ever, Curry is an executive producer on “JUMP SHOT,” a documentary film that showcases Kenny Sailors, the pioneer of the jump shot. Sailors won an NCAA championship in 1943 with the Wyoming Cowboys.

He played three seasons in the old Basketball Association of America, which merged with the National Basketball League in 1949 to form the NBA. Sailors played two seasons in the NBA. He passed away in 2016. He was 95.

Warriors Wire recently chatted with Jacob Hamilton, the film’s director. The movie marks his debut for a feature-length film, and it’s a project he’s worked on since 2011. Hamilton was the director on the short film of “Kenny Sailors Jump Shot,” which was released in 2012.

The movie was originally slated for a one-night release on April 2, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the film will be released digitally from April 16-18 on JumpShotMovie.com.

The price of the film is $7.99, and once it is purchased, viewers can watch it for up to 48 hours.

Warriors Wire: When you directed the short, did the idea for the feature film come out of that? 

Jacob Hamilton: Yeah, so I came across Kenny’s story in 2011. And all that I originally heard was a two-minute audio interview that was done with Kenny. About the first time he jumped over and shot over his brother, and how he was benched in the NBA his first season, his rookie season there. And the whole ‘well, I don’t know if really I’m the guy that did it or not.’ His humility kind of showed through that. And that really piqued my interest in this story. I was like ‘well, I love sports. I grew up playing sports.’ And I always love a great origin story. I came across this audio interview and was just blown away that somebody invented the jump shot. I always thought that it existed, just like pretty much everybody else, especially today. And then, when I started doing a little bit more research on Kenny who he is as a person and individual, I was like ‘Gosh, this guy’s incredible.’ He lived an amazing life, and it just felt like there was more there than just a short film.

WW: With Kenny, you mentioned how most of the interview you have in the feature film is from the short. Was there anything else different about the short compared to the feature film?

Jacob Hamilton: The short was more focused on just Kenny telling his own story. We didn’t have the ability to go out and start including other voices into that film, nor did we have the time to be able to do that or the resources. And so when the feature started moving forward, that’s when we were like, ‘OK, we don’t want Kenny talking about his (endeavors) — he’s the only voice throughout it.’ We need some people to add a little bit of clout or clarity on some things because he’s also one of those that’s not gonna toot his own horn I guess you could say.

WW: What was it like working with Steph Curry on this film? Especially considering he’s arguably the best shooter ever, how did he make his imprint on this film? 

Jacob Hamilton: So when we started dreaming up, ‘OK, who are some of the voices that we want to have in this film?’ You start looking at ‘Well, who are some of the greatest shooters of all time?’ And how can we get access to them? And obviously Steph is on that list. It’s one of those things you never in your wildest dreams think that you’ll ever get the opportunity to even present the idea of the film to him. But when we finally did get a connection to him, we reached out to him to just participate in the film and sit down with us for an interview. And with a lot of these guys their time’s valuable, and they only want to pick and choose the projects that they’re going to be a part of that they really do believe in. And so we sent him an early version of the film that was a screener. When they got back to us, when he and Unanimous (Media) got back to us, they were like this is awesome. They were like, ‘Yeah, Steph is 100 percent in to be an interview, but is there opportunity for him to be more involved?’ Another thing we weren’t expecting to hear. But we obviously were very excited to engage in those types of conversations with him. And that led to him being an executive producer on the film.

WW: What did Steph’s job as an executive producer consist of?

Jacob Hamilton: Steph’s job as an executive producer is to help spread the word about Kenny’s contribution to the game of basketball. Obviously he’s a name that people are familiar with. Nobody knows the name Kenny Sailors. And so one of the things that he feels that is of utmost importance for him and his ability or contribution to this story is to be that voice that people will listen to, to help carry Kenny’s legacy into something that people will know a little bit more.

Editor’s note: Hamilton also interviewed Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki and Nancy Lieberman for this documentary. 

WW: With interviewing Kevin Durant, Dirk, Nancy Lieberman, what was it like talking with them?

Jacob Hamilton: It was fun to get to engage with them, and who inspired them in their day. And honestly, depending on who you talk to, they’re going to have a different story. Guys like Bob Knight and Jud Heathcote, they go way back. And a lot of names that inspired them and who they admired and looked up to, and even tried to replicate what they were doing, it’s very different than guys like Steph and Dirk and KD. And what I think consistently across the board, I noticed is that each one of them there was a huge appreciation for those that came before them that helped lead the way to make the game what it is today. And obviously Kenny, arguably for each one of these, even though for some of them they might have seen Kenny play, and others they are just now learning about him because he played sixty, seventy years prior to them. The fact that he did what he did and helped popularize the modern day jump shot and bring it to professional basketball, they all had a great admiration and respect for him.

WW: How important is it for you to educate people on Kenny, and then also what did you learn about his life after basketball?

Jacob Hamilton: To me, Kenny lived a life that’s worth celebrating. I think that’s ultimately why this film has grown to what it is today. And a lot of that is because of what he did on the court, but in all honesty I think what catches people’s attention — it catches them off by surprise while watching the film — it’s really what he did off the court that is so inspirational. In a way, one could argue he defined the game of basketball by developing the primary offensive weapon of the game. But it never really defined who he was. And so when he retired from basketball, or what led to his retirement of basketball, was his love for family. His wife had kind of fallen ill and was sick. They needed to relocate their family basically for her health. And so once he was able to get his pension, he was like, ‘OK, we’re going to focus on that. And we’re going to do this as a family.’ And then when he moved away from the spotlight of basketball, it didn’t take very long for basketball to catch back up with him, because then all of a sudden he’s asked to be a coach in the middle of nowhere in Alaska for women’s basketball and plays a huge part in being a pioneer for women’s basketball up there in the public schools of Alaska. There was no state tournament at that time, only the private schools, and a lot of women, and specifically native women up there, didn’t have the opportunity to play. And so he brought the game to them. It’s stories like that where I think a lot of people come in expecting one thing from this film, and they’re pleasantly surprised that there’s a lot more to it. And I think those are always the most exciting documentaries to me. When I’m watching something expecting one thing, and then I walk away from it being like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know I needed to learn about this, but I’m so glad that I learned something new.’

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