Monday, March 25, 2013

R.I.P.: Radio/TV Sportscaster Bud Palmer

Bud Palmer
Perfected Basketball's Jump Shot

John “Bud” Palmer, formerly of Palm Beach and a pioneer of television sports broadcasting, lost his battle with cancer on Tuesday, March 19, 2013. He died at home in West Palm Beach.

He was 91.

According to the Palm Beach Daily News,  Born in Hollywood in 1921, the son of professional sportsman and silent movie star “Lefty” Flynn and Blanche Palmer, Mr. Palmer attended Le Rosey boarding school in Switzerland and Phillips Exeter Academy. He attended Princeton University, where he wasa Division 1 All American in basketball, soccer and lacrosse.

Mr. Palmer joined the Navy in December 1944 and trained as a pilot in Chapel HillN.C., where he played for the Navy Air Corps basketball team. He flew as a Navy pilot in the Caribbean and was discharged in January 1945.

He married Mary Le Blond in Cincinnati in 1945 and began his career as a professional basketball player with the original New York Knicks in 1946. He was the first Knickerbocker captain.

In 1950, Palmer began his long broadcast career, calling the Knicks games on WMGM 1050 AM in NYC. He graduated to television reporting, announcing the games for WGN-11.

Mr. Palmer moved to network sports broadcasting, then in its infancy. He was a pioneer in national sports broadcasting, working for three major networks over the years. He covered the Olympic Games. He produced and appeared in the CBS Sports Spectacular and then every weekend on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. He earned the National Academy of TV Arts & Sciences award for Achievement in Sports Programming for his broadcast of the 1968 Summer Olympic Games.

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Bud Palmer 1947
According to the, Palmer perfected the jump shot in basketball while for the Knicks. Palmer at age 6 was so small and weak that he had to launch his shots with a leap. He knew he had shot them regularly as a student at Phillips-Exeter Academy in the late 1930s. He realized, he said, that “if I dribble, and stop, and jump, I will have an advantage.”

When he tried out for the Knicks in 1946, it was still so odd that Coach Neal Cohalen thundered, “What the hell kind of shot is that?”

Palmer sat on the bench for several weeks, until he and the coach huddled at a bar to talk things over. Palmer told Cohalen that he had been successful with the shot and said that its unusualness was an advantage because opponents had little experience defending against it. Cohalen said shooting blindfolded was also unusual.

But Palmer’s shooting accuracy ultimately won the day. Over three seasons in New York, he averaged 11.7 points in 148 regular-season games and 14.4 points in 14 playoff games. Besides being the Knicks’ first captain, he was the team’s highest-paid player. Decades later, whether the story was true or not, old-time Knicks fans had made Palmer part of their holy writ: a Knick, they assured grandchildren, had shot the first jump shot.

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