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We Got Game

Think you know Jewish hoops? Pick your starting five and bring it.

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“The reason, I suspect, that basketball appeals to the Hebrew with his Oriental background, is that the game places a premium on an alert, scheming mind, flashy trickiness, artful dodging and general smart aleckness,” wrote Paul Gallico, one of the premier sportswriters of the 1930s.

Maybe. More likely, when a new American sport ideal for cramped, urban spaces and attractive to lower-class people denied other economic opportunities emerged in the early part of the 20th century, you simply got a lot of Jews shooting hoops. Many of early basketball’s best athletes were Jewish, and Jewish success on the court continued into the 1940s and ’50s—reaching its apex with Dolph Schayes, who played from 1948 to 1964 and is generally considered the greatest Jewish basketball player of all time—before a change in the style of play and the integration of the NBA (which happened in no small measure because of the great Boston Celtic coach Red Auerbach, also Jewish) eased Jews away from their dominance.

But the story of Jews in American basketball remains one to be proud of. Which is why we’ve teamed up with FreeDarko, the amazing five-year-old collective of basketball writers known for its wit, one-of-a-kind drawings, and revealing focus on unorthodox statistics, to let you select your top all-time Jewish-American starting five, plus a Jewish coach, naturally. (FreeDarko’s new book The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History would make a great Hanukkah present, by the way, as would the cool knickknacks you’ll find in its store.) Plug in as many combinations as you want to get a squad that plays the style you think is best. And afterward head to a court and take a few shots. It’s your birthright.

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Walter Hess says:

College players should be included. I’m thinking of CCNY and LIU in the 40’s and ’50s. And after basketball you might think of featuring a similiar program for both the great hand-ball and ping-pong players.

This is awesome, but how can Shoals and the rest of FD leave off our beloved Omri Casspi?

Where is Mickey Davis on this list?

Mike Shapiro says:

I’d like to see, and have included, college players (see Rosenbluth, Lennie),in my picks. As good a guard as he was, my father tells me of a game that Reds Auerbach was replaced because he was getting beaten up by the opposing forward.

He was replace by Tuffy Lehman (the only non-Jew on the court for GWU that game. Lehman didn’t last long, as he threw a hip block, next time down the court and landed the offending player in the second or third row of spectators. Lehman (who, BTW, went on to a productive career with the New York Football Giants) was immediately tossed & Auerbach brought back in.

I know of at least one Jewish basketballer taller than Newmark — 7′ 4″ Eric Gingold of Williams College/West Virginia University, who signed with the Bulls as a free agent but never made the roster.

Hank Essay says:

Where’s Lawrence Frank, former coach of the Nets and now assistant coach of the Celtics?

where are the Schayes’, Dolph and Danny?

FWIW, my distant cousin is Max Zaslofsky

Forest Hills High School Ernie Grunfeld, Steve Chubin, Jay Warhaftig Barry Kramer NYU Harry Litwack Coach of Temple
Red Klotz Washington Generals

Shouldn’t Swede Levov be on this list somewhere? The man had a sweet shot.

My father (66 yo) attended a basketball camp run by Dolph Schayes when he was a kid. He remembers two stories: when anyone asked him how tall he was, his line was “five foot twenty,” and he took them all out to ice cream because someone beat him by 1 in a free throw contest. Dolph didn’t count his if they touched the rim, of course

p junke says:

You guys ! New Yorkers all.

How about the Philly SPHAS ?

Googlr them.

p junke says:

I meant GOOGLE.

Ehud Tal says:

p junke: Inky Lautman is up there from philly. And a couple of others. Try making up a team with all the non-New-Yorkers and see what happens…

Love the list. However, one minor correction – the “Bernie & Ernie Show” dates back to King’s and Grunfeld’s time together at Tennessee in the 70s, and not to their later time together on the Knicks.

What about Dutch Garfinkel? Again, Thomas Jefferson, St. John’s (Hall of Fame!), Philadelphia SPHAS, Rochester Royals (Red Holtzman’s teammate) in NBL, and finally with the Celtics in the BAA and NBA. He was my Dean of Discipline at George Gershwin JHS back in the 60’s and I hear is still alive and well at 92!

Andrew says:

How about Jack “Dutch” Garfinkel as the point guard? Captain of St. John’s in 1940-41 and a member of the first Boston Celtics team, he is described as the Bob Cousy of his time and is widely credited for inventing the no-look pass. His no-looks weren’t for showmanship, but because it was easier to hit open teammates if their defenders weren’t paying attention.

@p junke, also a member of the SPHAS

Where the hell is mickey berkovitch (מיקי ברקוביץ)?? Is this list only for Americans?? what a joke I tell you! :)

hornblower says:

Barry Kramer from NYU was my favorite player. He should be on the list even though he went to law school not the NBA.
My team assumes that Jack Molinas had no action on the game. An unlikely possibility.
Alan Seiden of St. John’s should also be mentioned.

Harold says:

Barney Sedran and Max “Marty” Friedman

We should get to select the beat writer to cover the team as well. For me, it’s Marc Stein. Steiny-MO!

Omri casspi is a must on this team. Also, jon schemer from last year’s duke team too…. Both obvious team members.

David Bar-Dov says:

Your tendency to disregard the many Israeli stars is typical of your magazine in general. Tal Brody could have played nba. Doron Shefer, Nadav Henefeld, Mickey, Derek Sharp,Katash were all standouts and could give your americans a serious run for their money.

Williams College/University of West Virginia? Something is wrong here.

Nice idea, but very limited. For example, how about American star, Tal Brody, who brought the EuroLeague basketball title to Maccabee Tel Aviv in the 70s?
Doron Shefer was the starting point guard and playmaker on UConn when they won the NCAA title.
Nancy Lieberman?

p junke says:

Hey Echud Tal…Here are your Philly guys.

How about Harry Litwack, Cy Kaselman, Davey Banks, Moe Goldman, Shikey Gotthofer, Mendy Snyder, Irv Torgoff, Red Wolfe, Max Posnack, Gil Fitch, Jerry Fleishman and the great Nicky Marinoff,
Chickie Passon, Mockie Bunnun.

Where are “High” Hank Finkel and Rick Weitzman of the Boston Celtics?

Clonus says:

I know it doesn’t count, but Sandy Koufax was a great high-school basketball player who could dunk and led a team of New York high-school all stars to a victory over the Knicks after his senior year before he signed with the Dodgers. Some observers said he was the best high-school basketball player they ever saw.

carl rosenstein says:

I was at the Garden and saw Ernie Grunfeld and Danny Schayes get tied up and had to jump ball. Together the two of them could barely clear a bagel and lox with a smear.

Maybe it’s because I’m not Jewish, but Who Cares! What’s the point? I don’t understand identity in this way. My parents are French Canadian and Vermont yankee. But for goodness sake, that’s not my identity. Whatever happened to judging people by the content of their character? Isn’t that the ideal? I just don’t get it. Why are 99.99 percent of the people the religion they are? Because their parents were. Let’s please stop identifying people by heritage or skin color – it just leads to problems. It makes as much sense to me as identifying people by their astrological sign.

p junke says:

Tom, if you don’t know……I can’t begin to tell you why. You just won’t understand.

Stan Felsinger at Columbia.
He helped bring Dave Newmark to Morningside Heights.
Red Auerbach liked the way he played.


What about Hank Rosenstein and Ozzie Shechtman of the original Knickerbockers

Stan Felsinger, yes!

How about Howard Komives @ shooting guard?

Carl Braun was a great transition player.

Jon Scheyer anyone? Glenbrook North H.S. whhaaaat

What about Milt Chamberlain?

RAFritz says:

I don’t know if he played in the NBA, but some mention should be made of Abe Saperstein, founder of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Omri from Israel says:

Guys, you have to acknowledge this is only an american jews list, beacuse JFYI, the are jews outside of the US – ZING!

Also, the tallest jew to play ball would be Maccabi Haifa’s current center big man Robert Rothbart who is listed at almost 7″2 (2.17 m)

The NBA is full with Jewish Americans
original black Israelites desendents of the slave trade
Remember the time blacks wasn’t even allowed to play this game
on a professional level 70 years later look at us now

i treitel says:

There was no better backcourt playing Jew than Alan Seiden. None of the playmaking guards listed above could hold a candle to him

the REAL headless chicken says:

Don’t take it too serious y’all. Had to LOL heavy @ Amar’e

It is an affront not to see Israelis on the list…whether it be Mickey Berkowitz, one of the best ever in Europe, Doron Sheffer, the Iceman who was the first Israeli drafted for the NBA, and Omri Casspi. And why can’t a woman be among the greats? I voted for a team but the list sucks!

For all asking for Casspi: The list is for Jewish-AMERICANS, not only jewish. Casspi was born in Israel.

Bernie Kabak says:

What about me? I played for Talmudical Academy then Yeshiva University High School (I didn’t switch schools; the school changed its name) 1955-59. I couldn’t jump, but I couldn’t run either.

Noahawk says:

Sorry dude, this article is bogus. Yes it is fun but still bogus. First of all Amare is NOT Jewish, despite overblown media speculation that he was. Second, you left off maybe the greatest Jewish player of all-time in Nancy Lieberman. Your bad (big time).

Lieberman was the first woman player to play in a men’s pro league. As a teen she would take a bus to Harlem and mix it up on the playgrounds deep in the inner city, showing no fear. Sorry your story is a joke dudes…

rich47 says:

How about Dave Kupel of Yeshiva University, whom the Blazers selected with their 10th round pick in the 1980 draft?

David Malamed says:

What about the Malamed brothers Paul and Lionel- Lione played in NBA for Rochester and Indianapolis- knickname- choo- choo and Teddy Bear

Harry Heller says:

Agree that Swede Levov was the greatest. Came out of Newark but unfortunately his fried roth did all the talking for him.

Sandy Koufax went to the University of Cincinnati on a BASKETBALL scholarship!

Steven Klipstein says:

I cannot believe no one has mentioned Larry Brown, one of the best guards to ever come from Long Island and one of the great coaches of all time. And his Long Island nemesis Artie Heyman, a great player at Duke and briefly, a (not very successful) Knick.

I am SHOCKED at the about of complaining going on.

Lou Wiener says:

How about the guys from Thomas Jefferson Brooklyn who were all great in the NBA after the war Sid Tenenbaum
Harry Boykoff
Max Zaslovsky

The Artie Heyman I voted for is the Duke great, not the NBA disappointment!

Steve Schoenbaum says:

Guards: Jon Scheyer; Tal Brody; Jordan Farmar; Max Zazlofsky; Mickey Berkovitz; Nat Holman ; Red Auerbach; Sid Tannenbaum

Forwards: Art Heyman; Omri Casspi; Lior Eliyahu; Yotam Halperin

Centers: Neil Walk; Irv Rothenberg; Dolph Schayes; Danny Schayes; Lenny Rosenbluth

Coaches: Red Auerbach; Larry Brown; Red Holtzman; Red Saracheck; Lawrence Frank; Bruce Pearl, Ron Rothstein

Many others

Steve Schoenbaum says:

also Jack Molinas; Ed Roman and Irv Dambrot.

Steve Schoenbaum says:

forgot about Coach Seth Greenberg (Va Tech)

josh ram says:

What about Danny Schayes and Omri Casspi? There should be a category for general managers and owners.

Archie B. says:

Sammy Davis, Jr.

David H says:

Then there is the baseball pitcher and BB purist Mike Bailin, star at Dartmouth!

David H says:

And lest we forget…Doron Shefer, Iraeli guard who played for UConn with Ray Allen…absolutely unflappable…deadly clutch three point shot…pinpoint passer…quintessential team player. Great career in Israeli pro ball, I believe playing for Tel Aviv Maccabi.

Stuart Shiffman says:

What about UCLA great Gail Goodrich

Mort Kamins says:

Re Gail Goodrich–a truly great player, but sorry, not Jewish.

Mark Shechner says:

Al Buch. Never played pro but captained the University of California basketball team in 1959 that won the NCAA championship and beat Oscar Robertson’s Cincinnati and Jerry West’s W. Virginia to get there.

joe hoffman says:

Dolph Schayes. When he retired, he was the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. He also helped out in the Maccabiot. In an interview in Israel, he claimed to have invented the two-handed push (away from the dinner table)

joe hoffman says:

Hey editors, let’s tighten up the journalism. In your lead on Jewish hoopsters, you quote Paul Gallico’s remarks but do NOT mention for which paper he wrote it or when. You say it was in the 1930s. That’s like saying FDR was president for many terms. C’mon!

Bronncohowie says:

Birdie Kranz, Pace University, the greatest foul shooter ever !!

When I was in junior high, the detention room teacher (to whom I was occasionally sent) was named Mr. Garfinkel. Someone told me that he was “Dutch” Garfinkel and had been a great basketball player. I didn’t believe it, but it was true. He was in his late 40s then, 92 today.

BH in Iowa says:

Don’t forget another UConn great – Nadav Henefeld (FW)

Jonah says:

Point guard Morrie Silver of Oregon State in late ’40’s.


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We Got Game

Think you know Jewish hoops? Pick your starting five and bring it.

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