IndyStar, March 21, 1954.
The greatest shot to ever fall in Indiana high school basketball history. It’s been written about time and time again. There is scratchy game reel from that night 62 years ago. There is the memory of that magical moment etched in shy and awkward teenage boys, now 80-year-old men.
But there is no photograph. There is no photo anywhere of Bobby Plump taking that shot.
Photographers were focused on the basket — the ball, seemingly in slow motion, arcing toward the net. They captured the ball falling through the hoop, the helpless Muncie Central players squatted down to try to grab a rebound that didn’t come.
But there is no photo of Plump.
People have asked Plump plenty of times. Asked to see a photo of him taking the jump shot that — put simply — set the course for the rest of Plump’s life. The shot that caught the attention of filmmakers who turned the game (and a largely fictional backstory) into the most popular basketball movie ever made, “Hoosiers.”
This is the only photo Bobby Plump ever had of his game-winning shot. He’s not even in it. (Photo: Photo provided by Milan Museum)
The shot that eventually turned him into a household name — around the world. Just this month, he has received three letters from kids in Paris asking for his autograph.
But Plump didn’t have a photo to show them. Even the front page of the newspaper that Sunday after the Saturday night game had the photo of the ball falling through the basket. A tiny, square headshot of Plump accompanied the article so people could see who this kid was.
Then, years later, Plump thought he had found the picture. It had run in the Cincinnati Post newspaper (Milan was 54 miles from the city) two days after the state final. It was a huge photograph of Plump jumping in the air, shooting in the exact spot where he launched the game-winning shot. Someone sent it to him in the mail.
Plump finally had the photo. Until he didn’t.
That takeaway happened about eight months ago, when Plump showed the Cincinnati Post photo to a Milan teammate, Roger Schroder. Schroder looked a little sad, uncomfortable with what he was about to say.
“He said, ‘Bob, that’s not the final shot,’ ” Plump recalled, sitting on the deck of his Plump’s Last Shot restaurant in Broad Ripple. “‘There’s Engle.’ ”
Bob Engle was on the court in the photo. That meant this wasn’t the stunning climax of the game. This was the first quarter. Engle had back problems that game and played only four minutes, in the first quarter.
Once again, Plump was left with nothing. He thought, as he had a million times before: “Surely someone got a picture of the shot,” Plump said.
“But there is no picture of the final shot.”
He showed up at his restaurant Sunday afternoon, a beautiful sunny day, to celebrate his 80th birthday. And as more than 500 friends and family streamed through to offer well-wishes, hugs, kisses and laughs, perhaps the greatest gift Plump could ever be given arrived on the deck.
Plump could hardly believe his eyes.
There he was, in the flesh, making that jump shot. A painstaking recreation of his game-winning shot, painted by an artist.
“Oh, I thought that was marvelous,” Plump said. “Isn’t that amazing?”