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Dolph Schayes Biography

Career Statistics, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments, Further Information


American basketball player

Dolph Schayes is generally credited with being the first modern basketball forward. His career began in 1948, before the formation of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1949. His playing career totaled 16 years with the Syracuse Nationals, which became the Philadelphia 76ers in 1964. He played for the Nationals from 1948 to 1964, and during that time, he was an All-Star twelve years in a row, became the NBA's all-time best scorer, and by the time he retired from playing, had played more games than any other player in the NBA (1,059). He was also the NBA's all-time leader in scoring, with 19,249 points to his credit, and the leader in free throws made (6,979) and attempted (8,273).

Schayes went on to become the first coach of the Philadelphia 76rs in 1964. In 1966, Schayes led the 76ers team to the NBA title, and he was named NBA Coach of the Year. Following his tenure as coach of the 76ers, Schayes became the supervisor of referees for the NBA, and then became the first coach of the Buffalo Braves in 1970. His last coaching assignments were

Dolph Schayes

with the gold medal-winning U.S. men's basketball team at the Maccabiah Games in 1977, and the master's team for the Pan-American Maccabi Games in Uruguay in 1991.

Dolph Schayes was born in New York City in 1928. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, graduating in 1945. In high school, he played on the school basketball team, earning letter honors three of his four years there. He was also captain of the basketball team his junior and senior year.

After graduating from high school, Schayes went on to New York University (NYU), where he excelled on the school basketball team as a center. At NYU, he earned letters all four years. His achievements on the team earned him All-American honors in 1948, and also the Haggerty Award as the best player in the New York City area. He earned All-Metropolitan honors in 1945, 1946, and 1948. He played a total of 80 games in college, earning 815 points for an average of 10.2 points per game. In his senior year at NYU, he broke the school's scoring record by scoring 356 points. In his junior year, he helped his team reach the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) finals.

Upon graduating from NYU with a degree in engineering in 1948, Schayes had offers from both the Basketball Association of America's (BAA) New York Knickerbockers (the Knicks) and the National Basketball League's (NBL) Syracuse Nationals. Schayes explained years later to Dave Anderson in the New York Times, "I was the Knicks' first-round choice, but that year their boss, Ned Irish, had … what amounted to a salary cap—$100,000 for the team, $5,000 for a rookie. That's all the Knicks could offer me, but Syracuse, which was then in the rival National Basketball League before the merger, offered me $7,500." The Knicks wanted Schayes badly enough to offer him another job during the off-season, but since they didn't tell him what the job would be, he decided to sign with the Nationals. He intended to play just one year and then see what his options would be. "But that one year," as he told Anderson, "turned into 16 years."

With the Nationals, Schayes moved from playing center to forward. He was named Rookie of the Year in 1949 after averaging 12.9 points per game, the same year that the two rival basketball leagues merged to form the National Basketball Association (NBA). By 1951, Schayes was the top scorer in the NBA, as well as the rebound leader, with an average of 16.4 rebounds per game.

During this time, Schayes developed an innovative way of improving his free throw shooting. He would practice with a 14-inch hoop inserted inside a regulation 18-inch hoop. This paid off for him by making him the NBA's free throw leader in three separate years, 1958, 1960, and 1962. During his time as a player with the Nationals, Schayes helped his team to several playoff games. In 1955, Schayes averaged 18.5 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. That year, the Nationals won the NBA title by defeating the Fort Wayne Pistons in seven games. Schayes was instrumental in that win; with less than one minute on the clock, he scored on two free throws, pushing the Nationals into the lead with 91-90 points.

The Nationals moved from Syracuse to Philadelphia in 1964, changing its name to the 76rs. That year, Schayes retired as a player and became coach of the team in its new home, taking his team to two third-place Eastern Division wins, and ultimately the NBA championship. The 76ers' 55-25 record in 1966 was the best in NBA, and earned Schayes recognition as NBA Coach of the Year.

During his career as a player, Schayes scored a total of 19,249 points in 1,059 pro games, for a points per game average of 18.2. His rebound total was 11,256. His best year was 1958, in which he scored an average of 24.9 points per game. By the time he retired from playing in 1964, he was the top-scoring player in NBA history, and had played more games than anyone else in the NBA.

In 1966, Schayes became supervisor of NBA referees. He served in this post until 1970, when he became head coach of a new team, the Buffalo Braves.

In 1977, Schayes went to the Maccabiah Games, held since 1932 in Tel Aviv, Israel, as head coach of the United States men's basketball team. Playing on the team was Schayes's son Danny Schayes, who had just graduated from high school. Team USA beat the Israeli team 92-91 to take home the gold medal. Also in 1977, Schayes was named one of the top 50 players ever to play in the NBA. His last post as a coach came in 1991, when he coached the masters team, made up of players 35 years old and older, in Uruguay for the Pan-American Maccabi Games.

Dolph Schayes's son Danny Schayes also had a long career with the NBA. After the Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv, Danny went on to Syracuse University, where he became a star player. After college, in 1981, he signed with the Utah Jazz. He played for numerous other teams before retiring during the 1999-2000 season with 18 seasons as an NBA player under his belt.

Dolph Schayes was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1973. He is also enshrined in the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame located in Israel. In 1999, he was inducted into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Sketch by Michael Belfiore

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