Schayes, Dolph : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Schayes, Dolph

Adolph Schayes

Schayes, a Hall of Fame forward with the Syracuse Nationals, is considered one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA. He played in 12 straight All-Star games and led his team to the NBA title in 1955. Schayes was a member of the NBA 25th Anniversary All-Time Team (1970) and the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team (1996). An outstanding shooter, he was legendary for his prowess on the foul line. Dolph perfected his free throw shooting by practicing with a 14-inch diameter hoop, which he fit inside a regulation 18-inch hoop. An "iron man" whose durability was as outstanding as his skills, Schayes played a league-record 10 consecutive NBA seasons without missing a game

Birth and Death Dates:
b. May 19, 1928

Career Highlights:
In 1945, Schayes began his basketball career when he enrolled at NYU because of the school's aeronautical engineering program. He played on some of the great NYU teams with future NBA players Don Forman and Sid Tannenbaum. In 1945, Dolph was named All-Metropolitan as a freshman -- he helped lead the Violets to the NCAA championship game (they lost to Oklahoma A&M, 49-45). The following year, Schayes was again named All-Met, but it was his senior season (1948) that grabbed the nation's attention. That year, Dolph was named an All-American, won the Haggerty Trophy -- symbolic of the top player in the New York/Metropolitan area -- and set the single season scoring record at NYU with 356 points. The Violets finished the season 20-3, losing to St. Louis in the NIT championship game, 65-52. Schayes finished his NYU career with 815 points in 80 games.

After graduating as an honors student from NYU, Dolph was drafted by two professional teams -- the New York Knicks of the Basketball Association of America, and the Syracuse Nationals of the more established NBL. Because the Nats offered more money, Schayes signed with them. He later said of his decision: "When I joined the Nats, I wasn't as polished...playing regularly with Syracuse helped me gain experience and overcome many mistakes. The Nats gave me time to develop. New York probably could not have waited...I wouldn't have had the closeness and camaraderie of the small town fans."

Despite his own evaluation that he was unpolished, Schayes was the NBL Rookie of the Year in 1949 after averaging 12.8 points per game. The following season, the NBL folded and the Nats moved to the newly named NBA (the NBL and BAA combined). Dolph led Syracuse with 16.8 points per game as the Nats finished the regular season with a record of 51-13 -- best in the league. The Nats swept through the playoffs to qualify for the NBA Finals, and a showdown with the George Mikan-led Minneapolis Lakers. Schayes and the Nationals could not quite overcome Mikan, and the Lakers defeated the Nats, 4-2, to win their second straight NBA title.

In 1953-54, Schayes led Syracuse in scoring (17.1) and rebounding (12.1). That year, they faced Mikan and the Lakers again in the NBA Finals, this time losing the series, 4-3. In 1954-55, the first season with the 24-second shot clock, Schayes again led the Nats in scoring (18.5) and rebounding (12.3) as they returned to the NBA Finals. In one of the most entertaining Finals series in NBA history, the Nats and the Fort Wayne Pistons battled back and forth to reach Game 7. In that final game, the Pistons had a 17 point first half lead, but because of the shot clock, could not stall. Syracuse staged a furious comeback. With a little over a minute remaining, Schayes hit two free throws to give the Nats a 91-90 lead. With only seconds remaining, Syracuse stole the ball to win the game 92-91. The Nats had won their first championship in dramatic fashion.

Although Syracuse never returned to the NBA Finals as the Nats -- they became the Philadelphia 76ers in 1963 -- Dolph remained one of the great players in the NBA for over a decade. Between 1950-1961, he was named All-NBA First or Second Team every year, and played in 12 consecutive All-Star games. Schayes was an annual mainstay among the league leaders in scoring, rebounding, and shooting. He led the league in free throw shooting in 1958 (.904) and 1962 (.897), and led the league in rebounding in 1951 (16.4). Dolph was also one of the most durable players in NBA history: between February 17, 1952 and December 26, 1961, he played in a record 706 consecutive regular season games (764 games, including playoffs). When he retired in 1964, Schayes was the NBA's All-time leading scorer (19,249), had played more games than anyone else in NBA history (1,059), and was the NBA leader in free throws made (6,979) and attempted (8,273). He ended his storied career with an awesome .844 shooting percentage from the charity stripe.

During the 1963-64 season, Dolph was the player-coach of the 76ers (he played in only 24 games), before becoming strictly a coach from 1964-66. He was named NBA Coach of the Year in 1966, when he led the 76ers to a 55-25 record, the best in the NBA. For the next five years, from 1966-1970, Schayes served as supervisor of the NBA referees. He returned to coaching in 1970 for the Buffalo Braves, a new NBA franchise, but coached only through the opening game of his second season.

In 1977, Dolph coached the U.S. Maccabiah team, with son Danny Schayes playing, to an upset victory over the Israeli team in the championship game, 92-91. In 1991, Dolph coached the masters (35 years and over) team in Uruguay during the Pan-American Maccabi Games.

Schayes was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1973. He is also a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, the New York Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame.

New York City

Career Dates:
Schayes played forward at New York University, 1944-48. He played forward for the Syracuse Nationals in the NBL in 1948-49, and in the NBA, 1949-63. He also played for the Philadelphia 76ers, 1963-64.

Physical description:
6'8", 215 pounds

Career Statistics:
In the NBA:
Games: 1,059
Points: 19,249
Points Per Game: 18.2

Field Goals Made: 6,135
Field Goals Attempted: 15,413
Field Goal Percentage: .380

Free Throws Made: 6,979
Free Throws Attempted: 8,273
Free Throw Percentage: .844

Rebounds: 11,256
Rebounds Per Game: 10.6
Assists: 3,071
Assists Per Game: 2.9
Personal Fouls: 3,667
Disqualifications: 90 (incomplete record)

NBA playoffs:
Games: 103
Points: 1,973
Points Per Game: 19.2

Field Goals Made: 609
Field Goals Attempted: 1,491
Field Goal Percentage: .390

Free Throws Made: 755
Free Throws Attempted: 918
Free Throw Percentage: .822

Rebounds: 1,051
Rebounds Per Game: 10.2
Assists: 257
Assists Per Game: 2.5

Personal Fouls: 397
Disqualifications: 12 (incomplete record)

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Also, read a chapter from The Jew in American Sports by Harold U. Ribalow and Meir Z. Ribalow

Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
The Official NBA Encyclopedia: Third Edition, edited by Jan Hubbard (New York: Doubleday, 2000)