Dolph Schayes, Jewish Basketball Legend, Dies at 87

Schayes was a 12-time All-Star and voted one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.

Dolph Schayes, circa 1951
Wikimedia Commons / JTA Photo Archive

American Jewish basketball pro Dolph Schayes, a 12-time All-Star voted one of the 50 greatest players in National Basketball Association history, has died.

Schayes, who had terminal cancer, died on Thursday in Syracuse, New York, at the age of 87, the New York Times reported.

Schayes was, according to a 2014 article in The New York Jewish Week, “arguably, to professional basketball, what Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg were to baseball — the most prominent professional Jewish athlete to ever to play his sport.”

The first NBA player to score 15,000 points, Schayes never missed a game between February 1952 and December 1961, according to the Times, and led the Syracuse Nationals to the championship in 1955.

In 1966, Schayes was named NBA coach of the year for his work with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Schayes was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1973.

Born in the Bronx (his given name was Adolph) to Romanian Jewish immigrants in 1928, Schayes began playing basketball on local playgrounds, then played for the Bronx’s DeWitt Clinton High School. As a freshman at New York University, where he studied aeronautical engineering, Schayes helped the team reach the NCAA finals.

In 1977, he coached the U.S. basketball team in Israel’s international Maccabiah Games, where it won a gold medal.

He is survived by his wife, four children and nine grandchildren. A funeral is planned for Monday.