Jewish Journal


March 27, 2009

Jewish hoop heroes


Speaking of basketball, I’ve written before a little about the Jewish stars of the first half of the 20th century. Ossie Schectman, though not well known, scored the first two points in NBA history. Red Auerbach, on the other hand, needs no introduction.

Basketball was a different game back then. That much can be seen in the above trailer for “The First Basket.” When the film was released last year, Jewlicious wrote this feature:

Now Jews traditionally have never been very athletic. But back in the early days of basketball, they verily dominated. Along with stickball, basketball was the game of choice for the little Jewish ragamuffins living in the tenements of the Lower East Side of New York and elsewhere in the US. The poor little yidden, first generation immigrant kids, freed from their shtetl yoke of religion, needed something to do with their spare time and for many, sports was their new religion.

New York Daily News sports editor Paul Gallico wrote in the mid 1930s that basketball “appeals to the Hebrew with his Oriental background [because] the game places a premium on an alert, scheming mind and flashy trickiness, artful dodging and general smartalecness.”

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