8 Best Jewish Basketball Players Of All Time

8 Best Jewish Basketball Players Of All Time

Dolph Schayes

Schayes lived the textbook Jewish-American Dream life. The son of Romanian immigrants, Schayes was born in the Bronx in 1928 and grew up near Jerome Avenue. He led NYU to an NCAA runner-up finish as a 16-year-old freshman, graduating in 1948 at age 20 with a degree in aeronautical engineering. The local Knicks drafted Schayes fourth overall in the 1948 BAA Draft, but he opted instead to go to the NBL, where he had been selected by the Tri-Cities Blackhawks and immediately traded to the Syracuse Nationals.

Schayes played 16 seasons for the franchise, one in the NBL and the next 15 in the NBA (the BAA and NBL merged in 1949). The Nationals turned into the Philadelphia 76ers for Schayes’ last season. Schayes made 12 All-Star teams, six All-NBA First Teams and six All-NBA Second Teams. He led the NBA in rebounding one season and was part of both the NBA’s 25th and 50th Anniversary Teams. His No. 4 is retired by the 76ers.

Schayes is perhaps best remembered for leading the Nationals to a 1955 NBA title over the Fort Wayne Pistons in seven games. Schayes averaged 19.0 points and 11.9 rebounds in the series, which happened before the introduction of the NBA Finals MVP Award. Schayes finished his career averaging 18.5 points and 12.1 rebounds in his 15 NBA seasons.

Amar’e Stoudemire

Image result for Amar'e Stoudemire

When asked in 2010 if he could confirm his Jewish roots, Stoudemire said, “I think through history, I think we all are.” This guy passed rabbinical school in five minutes.

But in all seriousness, Stoudemire has embraced Judaism, meeting with former Israeli President Shimon Peres, engaging with the Jewish community during his time in New York and getting a Jewish star tattoo. After retiring from the NBA this past offseason, he signed with Hapoel Jerusalem for two years.

Stoudemire’s NBA accomplishments includes six All-Star Game appearances, an All-NBA First Team nod, four All-NBA Second Team inclusions and an NBA Rookie of the Year Award. In 14 seasons, he averaged 18.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks with the Suns, Knicks, Mavericks and Heat.

Rudy LaRusso

LaRusso was born to a Jewish mother and Italian father in Brooklyn. He starred at Dartmouth, making two All-Ivy League Teams and winning conference titles in 1958 and 1959 (the Big Green have not won the conference or reached the NCAA Tournament since LaRusso graduated). LaRusso’s Ivy League background could sometimes deceive his opponents. “Roughhouse Rudy” was one of the most bruising players of the 1960s. In nine NBA seasons, he averaged 16.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and plenty of blocked shots before it became an official stat. The NBA began recognizing an All-Defensive Team starting in LaRusso’s final season, 1968-69, and he made the second team.

LaRusso could score too. In 1962, with the Lakers, LaRusso lit up the Hawks for 50 points. He played in five All-Star Games and finished seventh in scoring in 1967-68 as a San Francisco Warrior. LaRusso was part of four Lakers teams that reached the NBA Finals, but he never claimed a ring. In fact, during Russo’s career, the Celtics won every NBA title except one — 1967, when Wilt Chamberlain’s 76ers broke the trend.

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