Basketball bunnies
Posted: 17 March 2018 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]
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In basketball, a bunny is an easy shot, from close to the basket, and often uncontested.  I have looked, but cannot find anything about the origin of the term in its basketball context. 

All help, including reasonable speculation, would be appreciated.

[ Edited: 19 March 2018 11:02 AM by cuchuflete ]
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Posted: 18 March 2018 11:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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cuchuflete - 17 March 2018 09:24 AM

In basketball, a bunny is an easy shot, from close to the basket, and often uncontested.  I have looked, but cannot find anything about the origin of the the term in its basketball context. 

All help, including reasonable speculation, would be appreciated.

According to recordholders.com, Harold “Bunny” Levitt of the Harlem Globetrotters made 499 free throws on 1935 April 6, a record that stood till 1975; his obituary in “The New York Times” of 2006 May 5 discussed his basketball career, and said that he was 96 when he died.

LINK

then there is a basketball writer. Leroy Hartman. who’s pen name was “Bunny Shot”, but can’t figure out the relevance. The reference to Google Books takes you to the book but not the page in which “Bunny Shot” is referenced.

[ Edited: 18 March 2018 12:28 PM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 18 March 2018 03:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Oecolampadius - 18 March 2018 11:57 AM


then there is a basketball writer. Leroy Hartman. who’s pen name was “Bunny Shot”, but can’t figure out the relevance. The reference to Google Books takes you to the book but not the page in which “Bunny Shot” is referenced.

Thanks very much for this.  You provoked me to try Google Books, which turned up an origin.  Don’t know if it’s true, but here it is.

Adam Van Brimmer, 100 Things Yellowjackets Fans Should Know and Do Before they Die

“Ciraldo was, in Durham’s words, “old school to the bone” but was also known for several trademark phrases, including “Toe meets leather” and “Goottt!” to signify baskets during hoops games.  He addressed Georgia Tech gans during broadcasts as “brothers and sisters” and coined the basketball phrase “bunny shot,” the origins of which go back to his childhood.  He hunted rabbits with his father, and bunnies were so plentiful, he didn’t have to aim to hit one.”

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Posted: 19 March 2018 05:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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That sounds like malarkey to me; surely it’s from “Bunny” Levitt.

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Posted: 19 March 2018 08:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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How long as the term bunny shot been used in basketball circles? If we had it going back to the 1930s or 40s that would clearly be the most likely origin.

But, not being a basketball fan, my mind immediately when to the skiing term bunny slope, which the OED has from 1954. Bunny as a pet term for women and children goes back to the seventeenth century. A bunny shot could be a shot that “a girl/child could make.” (The sexism isn’t mine.)

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Posted: 19 March 2018 10:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Ah, that makes sense too.

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Posted: 19 March 2018 10:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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languagehat - 19 March 2018 05:04 AM

That sounds like malarkey to me; surely it’s from “Bunny” Levitt.

Well, then, malarkey it is!

An obit for our dear, departed, Mr. Leavitt, one of the shorter players of his time, includes the following:

“In 1954, Quaker Oats issued a trading card commemorating his
skill at the line, the Ocala Star-Banner reported.

“He was a great athlete,” his wife Edith Levitt said. “He
liked life. He was always up. That was his personality.”

Levitt was born in Chicago and his mother called him “Bunny”
because he was small and quick.”

This proves, conclusively, that Chicago was once overrun by rabbits with exceptional free throw shooting skills.

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Posted: 19 March 2018 11:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Dave Wilton - 19 March 2018 08:09 AM

How long as the term bunny shot been used in basketball circles? If we had it going back to the 1930s or 40s that would clearly be the most likely origin.

I don’t know about the 1930s or 40s, but a chapter on a 1953 tournament has this:

The Milan stall and cat-and-mouse possession game is spedily becoming a feared maneuver in Riply County,” wrote Leroy Hartman under the pen name of Bunny Shot in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

source: The Greatest Basketball Story Ever Told: The Milan Miracle, 50th Anniversary Edition
by Greg L Guffey, Bob Hammel (Foreword by) Page 50

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Posted: 19 March 2018 03:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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That’s not direct evidence. It’s a writer’s pen name. The book doesn’t use bunny shot in the sense of an easy basket. Of course, the pen name could come from basketball slang, but I don’t know that for sure.

(The book, by the way, is from 1993. It’s quoting material that I assume comes from the 1950s, but from the limited view available on Amazon’s Look Inside the Book, I’m not certain of that. It’s always dangerous to assume dates of internet material unless you at least get the full images of the entire book or magazine in question.)

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Posted: 20 March 2018 10:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Dave Wilton - 19 March 2018 08:09 AM

How long as the term bunny shot been used in basketball circles? If we had it going back to the 1930s or 40s that would clearly be the most likely origin.

But, not being a basketball fan, my mind immediately when to the skiing term bunny slope, which the OED has from 1954. Bunny as a pet term for women and children goes back to the seventeenth century. A bunny shot could be a shot that “a girl/child could make.” (The sexism isn’t mine.)

“...that would clearly be the most likely origin.” I am not sure which possible origin that refers to.

I have found a single instance of the term “bunny shot”, in quotes, from a 1935 newspaper report of a basketball game.  A paywall prevents me from reading more than a snippet.  Google books has a limited preview of a work that quotes the newspaper article at length, but the first portion is missing.  This all leaves me with no hints about the origin, and no reason to think the term was in widespread use at the time.

The Google books reference is “The Waterloo Wonders” by Dick Burdette.  The news article is from the Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb. 2, 1935, page 14.  It is available to paying customers through Newspapers.com.

Here is a transcription of the relevent portion:

In the final half, the tobacco chawin’ youths from the farmlands just outside of Ironton had the Conquerors dizzy with a bewildering passing attack, many times whipping the ball around like a tennis ball until they shook a man loose right under the basket for a “bunny shot.”

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Posted: 20 March 2018 12:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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“...that would clearly be the most likely origin.” I am not sure which possible origin that refers to.

The “Bunny” Levitt origin.

I’m looking at Newspapers.com and the term is extremely common in the 1920s and 1930s. The earliest I’ve found is from the Cincinnati Enquirer, 22 Feb 1924, p. 11, “Bearcats Are Beaten by Akron”:

Akron penetrated the varsity defense with ease many times with the result that bunny shots were in order and were made.

Another early one is in the Hamilton (Ohio) Evening Journal, 14 Jan 1926, p. 9, “Play-by-Play Account of Mosler-Auto Contest”:

Phipps missed a “bunny” shot. Kreiling held Shafor who missed the foul try.

Since these predate “Bunny” Levitt’s foul-shooting display by a decade, that pretty much eliminates him as the origin.

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Posted: 20 March 2018 05:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Dave Wilton - 20 March 2018 12:15 PM


Since these predate “Bunny” Levitt’s foul-shooting display by a decade, that pretty much eliminates him as the origin.

OK. Thanks.  I never considered Levitt as a source of the term ‘bunny shot’ as his fame was for free throws.  A free throw, also called a foul shot, is attempted from a line fifteen feet from the hoop.  Bunnies are either layups or jumpers from very near the basket.  Free throws, as the name suggests, are uncontested.  Bunny shots are usually uncontested, but may be challenged by a defender.

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Posted: 21 March 2018 04:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Since these predate “Bunny” Levitt’s foul-shooting display by a decade, that pretty much eliminates him as the origin.

It certainly does; good finds!

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Posted: 23 March 2018 05:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Dave Wilton - 19 March 2018 08:09 AM

How long as the term bunny shot been used in basketball circles?

“Trester, who laid under the basket, got many a bunny shot, but was off in his aim and caged only a few of them.” (Covington) Kentucky Post December 27, 1925.

I don’t know basketball, but I do know baseball.  The style of writing is very typical for sportswriters of the day.

Edit:  There are many examples of this usage in the Kentucky Post, by writer Tom Swope.  Swope was a general sportswriter, usually associated with the Cincinnati Post.  I don’t know what the arrangement with the Kentucky Post was.  I also don’t know that the term originated with Swope, but he clearly liked it.

[ Edited: 23 March 2018 05:58 AM by Richard Hershberger ]
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