Who actually invented the high five?

Answered by Michael Wilson

The invention of the high five is often attributed to Lamont Sleets, who was not only the inventor but also its Johnny Appleseed, spreading its popularity far and wide. However, it is important to note that the low five had been a fixture of African-American culture since at least World War II.

Lamont Sleets, an African-American man born in the early 1950s, is credited with popularizing the high five in the late 1970s. He was a basketball player at Murray State University in Kentucky, and it was during a game in 1977 that he first performed the high five. After a teammate made an incredible play, Sleets instinctively raised his hand high in the air as a gesture of celebration. His teammate reciprocated, and the high five was born.

From that moment on, Sleets became known for his exuberant high fives on the court. His infectious enthusiasm quickly caught on with his teammates, fans, and eventually spread to other sports. Sleets’ flair for the high five was even featured in Sports Illustrated, further cementing its place in popular culture.

However, it is important to acknowledge that the low five had been a prevalent gesture in African-American communities long before Sleets’ high five. The low five, also known as the “dap” or “gimme five,” originated during World War II as a way for black soldiers to greet each other. It was a more subdued gesture, involving a palm-to-palm contact followed by a quick slide down to complete the greeting.

The high five, on the other hand, was a more energetic and visually striking gesture. It quickly gained popularity in the mainstream, becoming a symbol of celebration and camaraderie. Sleets played a significant role in popularizing the high five beyond the African-American community, but it is essential to recognize the cultural roots from which it emerged.

Lamont Sleets is often credited as the inventor of the high five, having popularized it through his basketball career in the late 1970s. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that the low five, a similar gesture, had been a part of African-American culture since World War II. Sleets’ contribution lies in his role as the Johnny Appleseed of the high five, spreading its popularity and making it a widely recognized symbol of celebration and unity.