Donald "Don" Lofgran (November 18, 1928 – June 17, 1976) was an NBA basketball player from Oakland. He attended Oakland Tech, where he was the California State Player of the Year in 1946.
Pete Newell (later a legendary coach at UC Berkeley) coached him at USF, and credits Lofgran with inventing the jump shot. In the 1949 NIT Tournament (the NIT was then the 'big' college basketball tournament), there were players who had hybrid running jump shots, but it was Lofgran who first did the now standard straight-up, release the ball at the top of the jump, straight-down one-handed shot guided by the other hand.
An account of the semi-final upset win over Bowling Green says:
"The odds-makers failed to reckon with the phenomenal one-hand push shot owned by one Don Lofgran, San Francisco's wiry, curly-haired forward.
The six-foot-six Don star pushed 24 points through the hoop-to completely subdue the big Ohio team that had been favored for the championship after Monday's wave of upsets.
Lofgran, with the ease of a boy dropping apples into a wash tub, shoed in 10 field goals, hitting the basket from all angles. He also made four free throws." 2
Lofgran was the tournament MVP of the 1949 NIT Tournament. Lofgran played for the AAU Oakland Blue 'n Gold before being drafted by the Syracuse Nationals of the NBA in 1950.
Lofgran married Joan S. (Lofgran) and they had three children: Lisa Gale Lofgran, Christiana Diana Lofgran, and Donald James Lofgran.
But Lofgran had a difficult time with life off the court:
"Lofgran was a beer-drinking roughneck off the court—when DeJulio first told Newell about Lofgran, he was in jail—but he had a radical, one-handed jump shot that was pure innovation for its time." 1
Lofgran battled alcoholism and other problems. His wife divorced him in 1953, and he disappeared with the family car. He was found in a hospital in Wyoming, but later that year the general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks flew him to join the team. In 1956, he was charged with forgery and grand theft for taking his sister's car, forging the pink slip, and selling it. 4
He died at the age of 47 in 1976 in an inexpensive hotel in Salt Lake City. He'd recently started work as a cook at the "No Name Lounge" where his boss said he was "a heavy drinker, but he never cried and was always happy-go-lucky." 3
Links and References
- All-Star classic was only 10 minutes short of big-league disaster SFGate.com by Bruce Jenkins
- Bowling Green Succumbs 49-39 to Snap Streak The Post-Star March 18, 1949
- Lofgran Died As He Lived Oakland Tribune June 19, 1976
- Don Lofgran Held on Forgery Charges Oakland Tribune December 14, 1956