Last week, the Bronx lost a borough-born basketball pioneer.
On the morning of Thursday, December 10, NBA legend Adolph ‘Dolph’ Schayes passed away after a six-month battle with terminal cancer. He was 87 years old.
Schayes was born on May 19, 1928 in the Bronx to Carl and Tina Schayes and grew up on Davidson Avenue and 183rd Street near Jerome Avenue in University Heights, where he began working on his game on the local playgrounds.
At Creston Junior High School 79 and DeWitt Clinton High School, he led his team to the borough championship game.
He then played college basketball under Hall of Fame coach Howard Cann at New York University from 1945-48, where he won the Haggerty Award, which is given to the All-Metropolitan New York Division 1 men’s college player of the year, in 1948.
The same year, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering.
After graduating from NYU, Schayes was drafted by the New York Knicks in the 1948 Basketball Association of America Draft and by the Tri-Cities Blackhawks in the 1948 National Basketball League Draft (before the BAA and the NBL merged to form the NBA in 1949).
The latter of the two teams traded his rights to the Syracuse Nationals, where he would lead them to the 1955 NBA Championship over the Fort Wayne Pistons and spend all but one of his years as a basketball pro.
Schayes became a player-coach in 1963, the year the team was relocated and renamed the Philadelphia 76ers, and stayed the coach for two more seasons following his retirement in 1964.
By the time he retired, Schayes held the NBA record for games played (996) and was second in scoring behind Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks forward/center Bob Pettit, having scored over 18,000 career points.
In his 15 years in the NBL and the NBA, Schayes played in 12 All-Star games and was named to six All-NBA first teams.
He was also named the NBA Coach of the Year in 1966.
A 6’8” power forward, Schayes was known primarily for his two-handed, high arcing outside set shots, which he adjusted to after breaking his right arm and learning to shoot with his off-hand early in his career. However, he also used his powerful drive to the basket as a weapon against defenders.
For his contributions to the NBA and the sport of basketball, Schayes was named to the NBA’s 25th Anniversary Team in 1970, the NBA’s 50th Anniversary Team in 1997 and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1972.
Additionally, he was also inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, the U.S. National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the National Jewish American Sports Hall of Fame.
He is also the father of retired NBA player Danny Schayes, who played for seven NBA teams from 1981 to 1999.
Just last May, following Bronx Week 2015, Schayes was inducted into the Bronx Walk of Fame, where his name was emblazoned on a street sign of the Grand Concourse with other hometown heroes who were also inducted.
“I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with (Dolph) Schayes this year, (when we inducted him into the Bronx Walk of Fame), for having revolutionized the game of basketball,” said Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. “As an avid fan of basketball, it was a great honor to meet someone who meant so much to the game and I will always cherish those insights.”
Funeral services were held on Monday, December 14 at Temple Concord, 910 Madison Street in Syracuse.