Rothenberg, Irv : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Rothenberg, Irv

Irwin P. Rothenberg

Rothenberg played at Long Island University in the 1940s before turning professional and playing in the Basketball Association of America (the forerunner of the NBA), and the American Basketball League.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. Dec. 31, 1921

Career Highlights:
Rothenberg was a member of Long Island Universityís team in 1942 when the team had a record of 24-2 and were ranked the No.2 in the East by the New York Times. A backup center, he played with a talented group of players, including junior forward Saul Cohen, sophomore guard Stan Waxman, and twin brothers, sophomore guards Howie Rader, and Lenny Rader.

The defending NIT (National Invitational Tournament) champions, LIU was the first school to win the tournament twice (they also won in 1939). In the 1942 NIT, the Blackbirds were seeded No. 1 in the tournament and played No. 8 seed West Virginia in the first round. Although LIU jumped out to a 37-28 second half lead, their opponents stormed back to send the game into overtime with a 45-45 tie. In the extra frame, LIU managed only four points and lost the game, 58-49. Rothenberg scored six points in the contest.

1943 proved to be a gloomy year for LIU. The Blackbirds went 13-6 and missed the postseason for the first time in school history (the NIT began in 1938 and the NCAA tournament in 1939). The following year, Rothenberg finished third on the team in scoring with 130 points despite playing in only 12 of LIUís 15 games; the team finished with a record of 12-3. Although they did not return to the postseason that year, LIU clearly regained its place at the top of New York basketball.

Following his college career, Rothenberg played professional basketball for seven seasons in the American Basketball League (ABL) and the Basketball Association of America (BAA). In 1944-45, he joined the Philadelphia Sphas (the nickname stood for the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) of the ABL, which at the time was the top professional league in the East. That year, Rothenberg played in 29 games and averaged 3.7 points per game as the Sphas finished 22-8 and won the league championship (it was the teamís seventh and final ABL title). The following year, Rothenberg averaged 6.0 points (fifth on the team) for the New York Gothams, which finished third (18-16) and lost in the playoffs to the Baltimore Bullets.

In 1946-47, Rothenberg left the ABL to play with the Cleveland Rebels in a new league, the Basketball Association of America. The BAA was the first attempt at a national professional league since the 1920s and had franchises in major cities like Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. That first season, the Rebels finished the year with a record of 30-30 and lost in the playoffs to the New York Knicks, 2-1.

The following year, Rothenberg played with the Washington Capitols and Baltimore Bullets before ending the season with the St. Louis Bombers (29-19, first in the Western Division). The Bombers lost in the semifinals to the Philadelphia Warriors, 4-3. In 1948-49, Rothenberg played for the Knicks (32-28), his most productive season; he appeared in 53 games and averaged 5.9 points and 1.3 assists per game. In the playoffs, the Knicks lost the Eastern Conference Finals to the Washington Capitols, 2-1. Rothenberg retired from the BAA after the 1948-49 season after playing in 131 career BAA games. The following year, the BAA merged with the National Basketball League, a top pro league in the Midwest and was renamed the NBA.

Although Rothenberg left the NBA, he did not retire from professional basketball. In 1949-50, he returned to the ABL and joined the Paterson Crescents; the ABL was still a formidable league because the NBA had not yet established itself as the dominant pro league in the U.S. (the ABL finally folded in 1953). Rothenberg was one of the league's top scorers during his final two years in the league. His first season, he averaged 14.2 points per game and finished tenth in the league in scoring with 469 points. The following year, he was third in points (461) and eighth in average (13.6) -- he retired for good following that season.

New York

Career Dates:
Rothenberg played center at Long Island University from 1941-44. He then played in the NBA for the Cleveland Rebels in 1946-47, the Washington Capitols, the Baltimore Bullets, and the St. Louis Bombers in 1947-48 and with the New York Knicks in 1948-49. He played in the ABL for the Paterson Crescents, 1949-1950.

Physical description:
6'7 1/2", 215 pounds

Career Statistics:
In the NBA:
Games: 131
Points: 709
Points Per Game: 5.4

Field Goals Made: 240
Field Goals Attempted: 898
Field Goal Percentage: .267

Free Throws Made: 229
Free Throws Attempted: 378
Free Throw Percentage: .606

Rebounds: not available
Assists: 90
Assists Per Game: 0.7
Personal Fouls: 351

NBA playoffs:
Games: 11
Points: 24
Points Per Game: 2.2

Field Goals Made: 9
Field Goals Attempted: 53
Field Goal Percentage: .170

Free Throws Made: 6
Free Throws Attempted: 17
Free Throw Percentage: .353

Rebounds: not available
Assists: 2
Assists Per Game: 0.2
Personal Fouls: 21

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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)
New York Times, March 10, 1944