Dolph Schayes, one of the NBA’s first great players, died Thursday at the age of 87.
Schayes played from 1948-1964, making his debut for the Syracuse Nationals of the National Basketball League, one year before the NBL merged with the Basketball Association of America (BAA) to form the NBA.
A 12-time All-Star, he won a championship with the Nationals in 1955, and stayed with the franchise long enough to play in its first season as the Philadelphia 76ers. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973.
As a 16-year-old freshman, Schayes led New York University to the 1945 Final Four, although NYU lost to Oklahoma A&M in the championship game at Madison Square Garden. In 1948, he was picked by the New York Knicks in the first round of the BAA draft, and was expected to stay in the Big Apple, but chose to sign with the Nationals in the rival league.
He won Rookie of the Year, and became a star in the merged league. Even though he played long enough to face Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor, he stuck with his high-arcing two-handed set shot while the rest of the league had switched to the jumper.
Schayes’ last season was a player-coach for the new 76ers, and he built a roster that went 55-25 two years later behind Chamberlain, Hal Greer and Billy Cunningham. Schayes, though, was fired after the 76ers lost to Russell’s Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. A year later, with Alex Hannum as head coach, the 76ers won the NBA title.
He served as the league’s supervisor of officials and later had a short coaching stint with the Buffalo Braves. His son, Danny, went on to play 18 seasons in the NBA.