Believe it or not, but back in the first half of the twentieth century professional basketball was dominated by none other than the Jews. Bronx-born Dolph Schayes holds the skepticism-inducing distiction of being the best Jew to ever play in the NBA. Born on May 19th, 1928, Adolph Schayes was a 6'8" 220 forward out of New York University, and a former All-American who played in 12 straight NBA All-Star games from 1951 to 1962.
His career averages of 18.5 ppg and 12.1 rpg over 16 seasons would likely have been much higher since Schayes was excellent from three-point range, the problem there being that the three-point arc had not been added to the game yet. Schayes was also a great free throw shooter (with a career average of 85% accuracy), as he took to practising on a custom-made basket with a rim diameter of 14" (the normal rim diameter is 18"), in order to ensure his shots went toward the basket at a high angle.
One of the league's most durable players, Schayes played in a record 764 straight games over a ten year span which ended only when he broke his cheekbone. When Schayes retired in 1964, he also held the record for all-time leading scorer (19,247 points). His success at scoring came mostly from the fact that he was an ambidexterous shooter, which had developed as a result of his breaking his right hand and then having to rely on his left.
Playing for the Syracuse Nationals, Schayes was the club's leading scorer for 13 years. Schayes led the Nats to the playoffs 15 times, and to the Finals three times, finally winning a title in 1955. When Schayes retired from playing basketball, he went on to coach the Philedelphia 76ers (winning Coach of the Year honors there in 1966) and then the Buffalo Braves, before serving as the NBA's Director of Officiating for three seasons.
Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1972, Schayes was also selected to the NBA's 25th and 50th Anniversary Teams. Schayes' son, Danny (a 6'11" Center), entered the NBA with the Utah Jazz in 1981, and played NBA ball for 18 years. Dolph Schayes is now 74 years old, and is a businessman still living in Syracuse.
"The Rainmaker" by Alan Paul, SLAM no. XLV