HISTORICAL BASKETBALL WRITER

In the 2015–16 NBA season, the Jewish presence in the league was largely confined to Adam Silver, the commissioner; David Blatt, the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers; and Omri Casspi, a player on the Sacramento Kings. Basketball, however, was once referred to as a Jewish sport. Shortly after the game was invented at the end of the nineteenth century, it spread throughout the country and became particularly popular among Jewish immigrant children in northeastern cities because it could easily be played in an urban setting. Many of the early stars were Jewish, including Shikey Gotthoffer, Sonny Hertzberg, Nat Holman, Red Klotz, Dolph Schayes, Moe Spahn, and Max Zaslofsky.

In this oral history collection, Douglas Stark chronicles Jewish basketball throughout the twentieth century, focusing on 1900 to 1960. As told by the prominent voices of twenty people who played, coached, and refereed it, these conversations shed light on what it means to be a Jew and on how the game evolved from its humble origins to the sport enjoyed worldwide by billions of fans today. The game’s development, changes in style, rise in popularity, and national emergence after World War II are narrated by these players reliving their youth, when basketball was a game they played for the love of it. 

When Basketball Was Jewish reveals, as no previous book has, the evolving role of Jews in basketball, illuminating their contributions to American Jewish history as well as basketball history.


 Praise for When Basketball Was Jewish:

“A terrific first person account of basketball life. As I read the stories of people I knew like Nat Holman and of course my dad, Dolph Schayes, I found myself living the stories of their time in the game. Their accounts are so real and dynamic that the game comes to life as you feel like you are experiencing it with them. A terrific read!”

— Danny Schayes, eighteen-year NBA player and son of Hall of Fame and NBA top fifty player Dolph Schayes


“The players and coaches chronicled in this book are not only important figures in Jewish basketball history; they played an important part in the history of the game. As a student of the game, a basketball lifer, and someone who is extremely proud of his Jewish heritage, I can appreciate the doors that they opened and I’m glad that their stories are being told.”

— Ernie Grunfeld, president of the Washington Wizards

In this oral history collection, Douglas Stark chronicles Jewish basketball throughout the twentieth century in the words of those who played it. From the early days with Nat Holman and Moe Spahn to post World War II with Dolph Schayes and Max Zaslofsky, When Basketball Was Jewish  focuses on the role of Jews in basketball as no previous book has, illuminating their contributions to American Jewish history as well as basketball history. 

Douglas Stark