About "Making Change" off the Top of the Backboard

Author Todd Gallagher's assertion (if you haven't read that, you really should -- it's a party) that essentially nobody can make change off the top of the backboard scared up a lot of talk.

In my inbox and the comments, there were countless claims of those who could allegedly do this feat -- including an assertion that a fair chunk of the Cuban national volleyball team was up to it.

Many suggest LeBron James could do it, even though in the story, Gallagher specifically asks James about it. (There is no reading skills requirement to comment on TrueHoop.)

Some pointed to video of people like the Arizona Cardinals' Adrian Wilson and other people jumping over 66" hurdles. But watch. There's a lot of leg-lifting to clear that height. Those guys aren't even getting their (literal) butts six feet in the air. They would have to have unbelievably long torsoes and arms to even reach the 12-and-a-half feet that Dwight Howard touched in the dunk contest, let alone the top of the backboard.

David Thorpe had a funny story. He had heard that Guillermo Diaz (rejoined the Clippers a couple of days ago) could do it, and he asked Guillermo about it. A smile spread across Diaz's face. Like a lot of players Gallagher has talked to claim to have done it. However, Thorpe saw Diaz get his hand within a couple of inches of the top of the backboard when Diaz was not in peak shape. Thorpe thinks it could be possible.

Almost every claim was second hand. In a rare exception, TrueHoop reader CM writes, as many of you have, about former Globetrotter Michael Wilson:

I have seen someone do it and you should be able to look it up. His name is Michael Wilson, he played for the University of Memphis. I couldn't find video of him doing it though. But during summer camp at the U. of M. about 20 people, including me, saw him take a dime, jump and put it on top of the backboard, then go back up and take it down.

Gallagher reacts to claims about Wilson and many others:

Everyone I talked to said Wilson couldn't do it and the Trotters said they'd look into it. After about 50 phone calls they said they didn't have any kind of evidence to support that he could do it.

I never was able to get in touch with him directly, so I can't say for certain.

However, hearing that he couldn't do it, combined with the lack of documentation from someone whose sole claim to fame is leaping was enough for me. He's too old now to test it out so that was about as far as I could go.

Also, if you look at his 12-foot dunk, it's off of an alley-oop and he's jumping as high as he can.

I saw in the comments section that someone thought I should have gone the route of getting an Olympic high jumper. That was actually my first move, but it didn't make the chapter. I spoke with Matt Hemingway who was the silver medalist in the 2004 Olympics in the high jump. He's also 6'7 which is tall for a high jumper.

He said he couldn't do it and didn't know anyone who could.

I should also note that almost everything in the comments, from Michael Wilson to Travis Outlaw was researched (Outlaw actually denied the story himself in an interview).

Still, it's possible I suppose there's someone in the world that can do it. My guess is if there was that there would be some kind of documentation though.

Also, I got a fascinating email from a reader named Dave, who says that at Amherst he saw a student video that included an interview with Earl "Goat" Manigault, shot not too long before the playground legend's death.

In the video, Manigault is said to have explained rumors about his own ability to "make change." He said it all started when he pulled a Dixie cup that had been stuck into a hole a few inches shy of the top of one of those metal New York City playground backboards. I would love to get video of that interview.

UPDATE: A few people have sent over this video. Could be the holy grail. Could be nothing. It's not very good quality, it's from kind of far away, and none of us can actually see the guy's hand hitting the bell that purports to be 13 feet in the air. Todd Gallagher's take:

I saw this and thought it looked pretty fake. The guy isn't even running hard and jumping high. James White is 6'7. He is an Olympic caliber high and long jumper, ran as hard and fast as he could and still didn't get there. This guy's taking two steps and, it looks like to me, barely getting over the hoop. I could be wrong I suppose, but it looks shady.