By Robert Gluck/JNS.org
Click photo to download. Caption: Ossie Schectman (left), the first scorer in NBA history, with David Vyorst, executive producer of “The First Basket,” a Jewish basketball documentary named for Schectman’s historic field goal. Credit: The First Basket.
On Nov. 1, 1946, Oscar “Ossie” Schectman
scored on a fast-break layup in the opening moments of the first game in the
history of the Basketball Association of America, as the National Basketball
Association (NBA) was known prior to 1949. But until the 1980s, Schectman
didn’t make much of what would later be considered a historic basket.
“In 1982, the NBA came to me and said ‘Look,
you scored the opening basket [in league history]. I said, ‘Great, I never
thought about it. I know I had a fairly good night that night.’ From that time
on I’ve gotten some publicity about it and it’s kept my name alive,” Schectman says
in “The First Basket,” a 2008 Jewish basketball documentary whose name was
inspired by Schectman’s field goal.
Click photo to download. Caption: New York Knick Ossie Schectman, the NBA’s first scorer. Credit: The First Basket.
Before he passed away on July 30 at age 94,
Schectman was the oldest living New York Knick, a designation now held by
90-year old Dick Shrider, the Ohio product who played just four games for the
team in 1948-49. Schectman’s NBA career lasted 54 games over the span of one
season, 1946-47, during which he averaged 8.1 points and 2.0 assists per game. In
the first game in league history, he scored 11 points as the Knicks won on the
road against the Toronto Huskies, 68-66. His death severed the last living
thread between the Knicks and their inaugural team.
“Ironically, Schectman’s passing came exactly
67 years to the day after he signed his first Knicks contract on July 30, 1946.
Few held a place in Knicks history more treasured and more unique. In so many
ways, he was the last original [Knick],” Dennis D’Agostino, team historian for
the Knicks, told JNS.org.
For many Jews like
Schectman, childhood was about little else but basketball–particularly for Jews whose parents came
to America from Europe and settled in the lower east side of Manhattan. Narrated by Peter Riegert, the
film named after Schectman’s historic field goal begins with the following
statement: “Basketball. Before going global it rebounded off of a few Jewish
neighborhoods. Who knew?”
“Ossie was one of the nicest, most humble
guys you could ever meet, and that is my lasting impression [of him],” David Vyorst,
executive producer of “The First Basket,” told JNS.org. “He had been in a nursing home for the past several years,
he called me when he first checked in and every so often just to let me know
how he was doing. It was quite bittersweet.”