Ossie Schectman Feed

Obituary: Ossie Schectman, Jewish Basketball Player Who Scored NBA's 'First Basket'

Ossie Schectman LIU
Ossie Schectman. Photo courtesy of Long Island University Athletics.
Oscar "Ossie" Schectman, the Jewish basketball player who scored the first basket in NBA history, died July 30, 2013 at age 94, according to the New York Times.

Schectman grew up in tenement housing in New York City, and perfected his shooting by arcing balls through a rung on a building fire escape, according to the NY Times remembrance.

He played college basketball at Long Island University, becoming an All-American and leading LIU to the 1939 and 1941 NIT championships, according to the SportingNews.com.

The SPHAs Book Cover
The SPHAs book cover. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.

According to his Wikipedia bio, after college Schectman played for the Philadelphia SPHAs (short for the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) in the American Basketball League. The team, billed as "basketball's greatest Jewish team," was owned by basketball Hall of Famer Eddie Gottlieb, who was also Jewish.

The team's exploits are chronicled in Douglas Stark's book The SPHAS: The Life and Times of Basketball's Greatest Jewish Team, which is available on Amazon.com.

“Ossie was one of the pioneers of basketball, certainly Jewish basketball, in the 20th century,” Stark told The Jewish Exponent

Shechtman then joined the New York Kicks, as an original member and captain of the team, which was then part of the Basketball Association of America, a precursor of the NBA, according to his obituary on the Knicks' web site.

In the league's first game, on November 1, 1946, between the Knicks and the Toronto Huskies, Schectman scored the game's first basket. Thus he become the first player in league history to score a point, according to this remembrance on NBA.com.

"Ossie Schectman was a true NBA pioneer," said NBA Commissioner David Stern. Scoring the league's first basket, Stern said of Schectman, "placed him permanently in the annals of NBA history."

The now-famous bucket, which Schectman told Charley Rosen, author of The First Tip-Off: The Incredible Story of the Birth of the NBA, came on "a two-handed underhand layup," according to the NY Times

The shot, according to The Jewish Ledger, inspired the title of David Vyorst's documentary film, The First Basket, which chronicles Jews' contributions to the early history of professional basketball. Video of Schetman's feat is part of the film's trailer, available below.

Peter Schectman, Ossie's son, tells JewishSportsCollectibles.com that Ossie was injured diving for a ball during the season. The injury, combined with his ability to earn money while not having to travel led to Ossie's decision.

Following his departure from the Knicks, Peter says Ossie played part-time with the Patterson (New Jersey) Crescents on the ABL, where he earned all-star honors.

Schectman was a member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, the LIU Athletics Hall of Fame, and the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame. He was awarded LIU's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013, an honor that Peter Schectman says deeply moved 

Jewish basketball collectors can purchase a variety of memorabilia associated with the scorer of the NBA's first basket.

Ossie Schectman Pack War
Ossie Schectman Remar Bread tribute card. Photo courtesy of packwar.blogspot.com.

Beckett.com lists no card available for Schectman, and no cards or memorabilia are available for sale on the Beckett Marketplace.

Because of his lack of pasteboard presence, the sports card blog Pack War created a tribute card for Schectman, based on the design of the 1946 Remar Bread trading cards.

While it exists only as an image on the blog, the "virtual card" (pictured right) is well-done and would make a nice addition to Jewish basketball enthusiasts' photo collections.

At the time of this posting, eBay offered little in the way of Schectman collectibles for sale. The auction giant's lone listing was for a signed signed index card.

Closed auction results included a Schectman signed basketball that had sold for $127.50. This is a bargain price, in my opinion, for an autographed piece associated with such an important figure in Jewish sports and NBA history.

Ossie Schectman signed ball
Ossie Schectman signed basketball. Photo courtesy of eBay.

Certainly, patient Jewish basketball enthusiasts will be able to find other Schectman memorabilia that is bound to pop up on eBay in the future. This might include 1946 Knicks memorabilia, like yearbooks, programs or ticket stubs.

As always, buyer beware.

Book collectors have numerous options for adding Schectman memorabilia to their shelves.

While Schectman is, surprisingly, not included in early editions of Great Jews In Sports (my copy is from 1983, and Schectman is not mentioned), he does, have a brief bio in the Encyclopedia of Jews in Sports.

Other books available on Amazon.com featuring information about Schectman include the previously mentioned The SPHAS: The Life and Times of Basketball's Greatest Jewish Team, The First Tip-Off: The Incredible Story of the Birth of the NBA; New York Knicks: The Complete Illustrated History; and, The Mogul: Eddie Gottlieb, Philadelphia Sports Legend and Pro Basketball Pioneer.

First Basket cover
The First Basket DVD. Photo courtesy of TheFirstBasket.com.

As also mentioned, Schectman is featured in The First Basket documentary.

Movie buffs can buy a DVD for $21.99 on the film's web site, which also includes other collectibles associated with the movie.

Amazon.com offers DVDs of The First Basket, as well as movie posters for the film. The DVD costs $19.99, the poster sells for $9.99.

At the time of this posting, no copies of First Basket were listed on eBay. CDs of the movie soundtrack, however, were available for approximately $10. The soundtrack is available as part of a collectors package on the First Basket web site.

Ossie Schectman
Ossie Schectman.
Photo courtesy of LOhud.com.

Jewish sportswriter Howard Megdal authored a profile of Schectman in March for LOhud.com (access to the article requires a paid subscription).

In an email to JewishSportsCollectibles.com at the time, Megdal indicated that Schectman and his son, Peter, were interested in selling Ossie's memorabilia collection.

Peter Schectman tells JSC the family consigned numerous items to Lelands.com. The Ossie Schectman collection was included in the company's Spring 2013 auction, which closed June 8, 2013. A catalogue of the sale is available on the company's web site.

Ossie Schectman Contract
Ossie Schectman Contract. Photo courtesy of Lelands.com.
Among the items that gaveled during the sale were Schectman's 1946-1947 Knicks original, signed contract, which hammered for $2,062.76.

Schectman's 1939 and 1941 NIT Tournament winners watches sold for 722.98 and $657.25, respectively.

His New York City Basketball Hall of Fame induction trophy realized $358.50.

A 50th anniversary Knicks jersey, autographed by Schectman, failed to sell. Perhaps a lucky bidder will win this wonderful piece of Jewish basketball history in a future auction.

With Schectman's passing, Peter tells JSC that the family may put the remainder of Ossie's memorabilia collection up for auction or private sale. We'll report on future offerings as details become available. 

In a recent online discussion about on the Jewish Sports Collectibles group on Yahoo, noted collector Neil Keller says he met with Schectman more than a dozen times at his home in South Florida. Keller says he and Schectman played "trash can basketball at his place in Delray Beach with a tennis ball."

Peter Schectman says his father was active in the South Florida Basketball Fraternity, a group of retired players , many Jewish, who met for weekly breakfasts on Tuesday and an annual black tie dinner. An article on JNS.org confirms this, describing Schectman as "one of basketball’s great ambassadors." It sounds to me that Schectman was a generous and charming man. 

Did you ever have the chance to meet Ossie Schectman? What Schectman memorabia do you have in your Jewish basketball collection? What other Schectman collectibles do you know about? 

Let JSC.com readers know by commenting below.