Gus “Honeycomb” Johnson – the original NBA backboard breaker
When you say “backboard breaker” Shaq should be the name that pops in your head first because he’s had the most memorable ones in basketball history – the NBA even had to build “Shaq proof” rims in 93 to stop him from adding rims to his collection. College fans might bring up Darvin Ham’s dunk against UNC and older College fans might bring up “send it in” Jerome Lane and his insane glass shattering poster dunk from 1988. Older NBA heads will talk about our good friend Chocolate Thunder since he’s often credited as the original “backboard breaker” in the NBA but hoop history buffs will tell you that Gus “Honeycomb” Johnson is the man who deserves some credit when talking about the history of backboard breakers.
Here’s an excerpt from JockBio.com about Gus.
As for Gus’s legacy at Idaho, that can be summed up in two words: The Nail. In 1963, he was hanging out with fellow students at the Corner Club. The conversation turned to his jumping ability. Just how high can you jump?, Gus was asked. He didn’t have an answer. He had never thought to measure his vertical leap. Gus was game right there and then. Flatfooted, in his street clothes, he exploded into the air and slapped a ceiling beam at a spot subsequently measured at 11’ 6”. Owner Herm Goetz hammered a nail into the beam at the spot and made it known that anyone who could repeat Gus’s feat would drink for free.
Over the years, countless Vandals, as well as visiting players, tried and failed to reach that nail. Among those who came up short was seven-footer Bill Walton. Finally, in 1986, Joey Johnson (younger brother of Dennis Johnson) reached the nail. Johnson was a legendary leaper who could touch his chin to a regulation rim. Corner Club denizens were quick to point out that the nail was merely a “starting point.” Gus once plucked a coin off the top of an NBA backboard, some 13 feet off the floor.
That year (1964), in a game against the Hawks in St. Louis, Bill Bridges tried to prevent Gus from dunking. In response, he slammed the ball down extra-hard—so hard that he tore the rim completely off the backboard—which shattered an instant later. The rim landed on Si Green’s foot, putting him out of the lineup.
The game was held up a half-hour while a new backboard was installed, and teammates picked shards of glass from Gus’s hair while calling him “Hercules.” Gus loved it. He would destroy one more basket before his playing days were over.
Shout out to Wilt Chamberlain Archive for putting out the best NBA videos from the 50s and 60s