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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dolph Schayes, Scorer/Rebounder/Passer Extraordinaire, Passes Away at 87

Dolph Schayes, one of the greatest power forwards in pro basketball history, passed away today at the age of 87. Schayes held the NBA basketball career scoring record from 1958-63, succeeding George Mikan before being surpassed by Bob Pettit. Schayes was the first NBA player to score 15,000 career points and when he retired he ranked first in career games played (996), second in points scored (18,438) and third in rebounds (11,256). The NBA does not officially count the 809 points in 63 games (12.8 ppg) that Schayes scored in 1948-49 while winning the Rookie of the Year Award as a member of the Syracuse Nationals in the National Basketball League before the NBL and Basketball Association of America merged to form the NBA in 1949-50. The NBL did not record rebounding statistics, so those numbers are not available for Schayes' rookie campaign. Schayes is one of a select few players in the first quarter century of modern pro basketball (circa 1950-1974) who led his team in scoring, rebounds and assists in the same season (22.5 ppg, 14.0 rpg and 3.2 apg in 1956-57, ranking in the top 10 in the league in each category).

It is difficult to compare Schayes to modern players because his era was so different from subsequent eras in terms of rules, facilities and many other factors but Schayes was without question one of the best players of his time and--based on his accomplishments--one of the greatest players of all-time. Schayes was selected to both the 10 player NBA 25th Anniversary All-Time team (1971) and to the NBA's 50 Greatest Players List (1996). He is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and the U.S. National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Schayes spent his entire 16 year career with the same franchise, the Syracuse Nationals, who became the Philadelphia 76ers in 1962-63. He led the Nationals to the 1955 NBA championship, the first title in franchise history. Schayes averaged 19.0 ppg and 12.8 rpg during that playoff run. Schayes served as player-coach in 1963-64 (his last season as a player) and he went on to win the Coach of the Year award in 1966.

I met Schayes at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland in 2004 and had the privilege of interviewing him. Schayes played against and coached Wilt Chamberlain, so it was interesting to get his take on a hypothetical Wilt Chamberlain-Shaquille O'Neal matchup. Schayes struck me as a nice, down to earth and intelligent man. I wish I had been able to spend even more time with him but I am so happy that at least I had the opportunity to hear about his career and the careers of many other great players in his own words.

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:53 PM


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