Glenn E. Roberts
Glenn Roberts was a native of Pound, Virginia and a 1935 graduate of Emory & Henry College. A charter member of the Emory & Henry Sports Hall of Fame in 1972, he is remembered for being revolutionary for the sport of basketball.
Roberts began playing the game of basketball with his brothers on an outdoor court and it was there that he began jumping before releasing his shot, an unheard of practice in the late 1920’s. The outdoor court where they played was often muddy, making dribbling to move about nearly impossible. So Roberts began to jump as a way to get his shot off against other players. He brought his “jump shot” to Emory & Henry in 1931 and immediately began turning heads and winning basketball games for the Wasps. While there are claims that other players may have used the jump shot at around the same time, it is certain that Roberts’ prolific scoring set him apart and gave him lasting notoriety for popularizing the technique that transformed the sport. A page devoted to Roberts on the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame website is entitled “The Genesis of the Jump Shot”.
During his Emory & Henry career, Roberts scored 1531 points in 80 regular college games and an additional 482 points in 24 exhibition games against pro and semi-pro teams, giving him a total of 2013 points and a career average of 19.4 points per game. He was the first college player to score more than 2000 points in his career. To make the feat even more impressive, it was achieved at a time when game scores were usually around 30 points per game, and the tip-off was used after each made basket, which could take as much as eight minutes off the clock per game. Perhaps the greatest testimony to his scoring feats occurred when members of the Rules Committee began efforts to diminish the advantage of the big man by instituting the three-second rule.
Coach Pedie Jackson is primarily known in E&H lore for his exceptional success as a football coach. But Coach Jackson also served as the basketball coach during Roberts’ collegiate career and is credited with helping Roberts hone his skills playing the post position.
During Roberts’ tenure at E&H, the Wasps posted a 72-8 overall college record and captured three Virginia State Championships. As a senior in 1935, Roberts was named an All-American by the Helms Foundation, alongside four other players from major college basketball programs in much larger areas of the country. He was a four time All-Conference player and was also the league’s Most Valuable Player in all four years.
Roberts’ accomplishments on the hardwood twice landed him in an edition of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not cartoon which was syndicated in newspapers across the country. One of his appearances in Ripley’s was the first published drawing of Charles M. Schultz, who later gained international fame as the creator and cartoonist of the comic strip Peanuts.
Roberts was an Honor Roll student all four years at Emory & Henry, served as the student body Vice President in his sophomore year and was a member of the Beta Lambda Zeta social fraternity. He earned both a B.A. and a B.S. degree in four years.
After graduating, he was offered an opportunity to both play professional basketball and work a steady job with Firestone Tire. The team was the Akron Firestone Non-Skids, one of the founding teams of the National Basketball League, the precursor of the National Basketball Association. The Non-Skids won the 1939 NBL Championship in Roberts’ only season with the team. The team record for that championship season was 24-3 for a .889 winning percentage record that still stands in NBL/NBA history. During the 1944-45 season, Roberts and his six brother team barnstormed the Appalachian region playing college and professional teams in an effort to raise money for the war effort. With a record of 32 wins and 4 losses, they sold over a million dollars in war bonds. After completing his basketball career, Roberts and his brothers opened a successful tire and recapping business in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Born on October 25, 1912 Glenn E. Roberts, Sr., died on May 21, 1980 at the age of 67. He was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in April 1980, just weeks prior to his passing.