Although I never met George Linn, I was very pleased when I learned that the former All-America and one of the stars of Alabama basketball’s ‘Rocket 8’ team of the mid-1950s had seen selected as a 2017 Southeastern Conference Basketball Legend.
Each year the SEC selects a former star of each league school to be recognized at halftime of his school’s first game at the SEC Tournament.
Linn is certainly a worthy Alabama legend.
Linn, a first team All-America in 1956, averaged 22.2 points per game during his All-America season, the fifth-highest scoring average in program history. A member of head coach Johnny Dee’s “Rocket 8” team, he led the Tide to its first postseason ranking at No. 12 in 1955 before improving to a program-best No. 5 during the 1956 season, when he helped the team compile a 21-3 record and win an SEC title. That same year, the Tide finished the season as the first-ever undefeated team in SEC history (14-0) until 40 years later when Kentucky accomplished the feat in 1996.
It is, though, one event that makes Linn stand out in my mind.
Some 40 years ago when I was working in Alabama’s sports information department, I was going through some old scrapbooks when I discovered a brief paragraph on George Linn having made a field goal considered the longest in basketball history.
There were several interesting elements to the story, not the least of which was the distance, of course, 84 feet, 11 inches. A basketball court is 94 feet and Foster Auditorium, where the feat occurred on Jan. 4, 1955, didn’t seem to be quite that long. Moreover, the baskets extend into the court a bit. It’s certainly possible for a longer shot to be made, and several have in various competitions, but this shot remains the longest in a sanctioned NCAA basketball game. It was featured in Sports Illustrated and is commemorated at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
The shot came at the end of the first half in what would be a 77-55 win over North Carolina.
North Carolina at that time was coached by Hall of Famer Frank McGuire. Alabama was going to be playing South Carolina in basketball in the upcoming season and McGuire was now coaching the Gamecocks.
I called McGuire to see if he remembered Linn’s shot of some 20 years earlier. He had a clear recollection. In those days the benches were at the end of the court, and Linn’s shot came from right in front of McGuire. McGuire immediately sent to the spot from which Linn had made his “baseball throw” and marked it with his toe until a maintenance man could come out and scratch an ‘X’ in the court. Later a brass marker was placed in the gym floor to show the location.
When Foster Auditorium was remodeled a few years ago, the spot of the marker was calculated and replaced in the new floor.
There were no photographs of the original shot, but later Linn did pose for a photo as students watched from the background.
Following his collegiate career, Linn earned a spot as an alternate on the 1956 Olympic Team that won the gold medal in Melbourne, Australia. Linn was drafted by the Boston Celtics with the sixth pick in the third round of the 1956 NBA Draft. He still ranks among Alabama’s all-time leaders in scoring (19th - 1,444 career points) and rebounding (20th – 722).
Joining Linn as members of the 2017 class are: Oliver Miller, Arkansas; Marquis Daniels, Auburn; Matt Bonner, Florida; Jimmy Pitts, Georgia; Keith Bogans, Kentucky; Tasmin Mitchell, LSU; Jason Harrison, Ole Miss; Dontae’ Jones, Mississippi State; John Sundvold, Missouri; Bobby Cremins, South Carolina; Ron Slay, Tennessee; Acie Law IV, Texas A&M; Barry Booker, Vanderbilt.
Linn, along with the entire class, will be honored at the 2017 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament, which will be held March 8-12, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. Each legend will be honored at halftime of his school’s first game at the tournament.
96 Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE This marks the 18th year of the SEC Basketball Legends program. Alabama’s SEC Legends include, in order, Reggie King, 1999; Wendell Hudson, 2000; T.R. Dunn, 2001; Leon Douglas, 2002; Buck Johnson, 2003; Derrick McKey, 2004; Gary Waites, 2005; Jim Farmer, 2006; Mike Nordholz, 2007; Leon Marlaier, 2008; Melvin Cheatum, 2009; Charles Cleveland, 2010; Robert Horry, 2011; Jack Kubiszyn, 2012; Wimp Sanderson, 2013; Eddie Phillips, 2014; Charles “C.M.” Newton, 2015; and Ennis Whatley, 2016.