There’s no doubt who’s the first player that comes to mind when you hear the phrase “shattered backboard.” Shaquille O’Neal shattered so many they had to redesign the baskets’ construction and the boards to sustain his raw power. While Shaq is the most dominant force the backboards ever faced, he is not the first player to shatter one. That title belongs to a player from the 1940s.
To be more precise, it happened on November 5, 1946. The Boston Celtics were warming up for the season opener in the Boston Arena when Chuck Connor pulled a Steph Curry – he heaved a 40 footer and broke the backboard. It was improperly installed, and the force of the long-range missile brought down the entire backboard to the floor. This was, btw, the first regular-season Celtics game ever – they were founded in 1946.
Connors played 53 games for the Celtics before leaving the team early in the ’47/’48 season. From 1940-1942, he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and NY Yankees, mostly for their minor league teams. That makes him one of 13 players that played both in the NBA and the MLB. Most known for that is probably Danny Ainge. Between his two sports careers, Connors was enlisted in the Army during WWII.
Still, his MLB and NBA careers are not what Connors is most famous for. After realizing professional sports aren’t in his future, he went to Los Angeles. Connors appeared on the big screen next to some of the biggest names in Holywood – John Wayne (Trouble Along The Way), Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston (The Big Country), and Doris Day (Move Over Darling), to name a few. But, he is most famous for his role of Lucas McCain in the hit tv show The Rifleman. It was one of the biggest shows in the US, airing from 1958 to 1963.
Breaking backboards isn’t the most important thing Connors achieved in the professional sports realm. Having connections in both MLB and NBA, Connors was an intermediary between players and owners during the Dodgers pitchers Don Drysdale and Sandy Kofax’s holdout that led to eradicating the reserve clause. The removal of this clause led to the creation of free agency across all 5 major North American sports.
One of the most popular Western actors of his time, Connors made Woj Bombs possible. What a life!