It’s time for the NBA Playoffs, which means it’s time to check in with our old friend, Dolph Schayes, a real estate developer in upstate New York who also happens to be the greatest Jewish basketball player who ever lived. (He is one subject in Jewish Jocks, a collection of essays I co-edited due out this fall.) Schayes began yesterday speaking about erstwhile Jew Amar’e Stoudemire’s angry, unfortunate confrontation with a fire extinguisher after the New York Knicks lost the second of two to the Miami Heat. We went on from there to discuss who he wants to win the championship—and who he thinks will. There was a brief detour to baseball. The interview has been edited lightly for clarity.
Did you see what happened to Amar’e?
Well I didn’t see it, they didn’t show it, obviously. It was a reaction that he had that was stupid, and I’m sure he’s apologized. [Ed.: He has.] Now it’s food for the New York Post.
Did you ever do anything like that?
Not after a game. I think once when I was 17 I had too much to drink and punched a hole in a sheet-rock wall. I didn’t break anything. You do stupid things sometimes.
Whom are you rooting for? I’d imagine in part the Philadelphia 76ers, which you played on for 16 years (largely when they were the Syracuse Nationals) and also coached. The Sixers are even, 1-1, in their series with the Chicago Bulls.
The Sixers, obviously. Actually I like Chicago too, but of the two I like the Sixers. I’ve always rooted for Dallas, but I don’t think they’ve got a strong enough team this year. Chicago had the injury to Derrick Rose. I presume in the East I’ll be rooting for the Celtics, and I don’t think they’re going to do it. I’m not a Miami fan. And in the West I’ll go with Oklahoma City—they’ve got several exciting players. San Antonio is surprising, but I think they’re in line for some kind of an injury—but they’ve got a lot of experience. I’d say Oklahoma City and them [San Antonio] second in the West. Not a great Laker fan.
Why aren’t you a Heat fan?
I still harbor resentment that LeBron James was disloyal to Cleveland and had to do this to try to win a championship. Eh, you’re a fan, you pick sides. Like I don’t like the Yankees cause they got all the money, so I root for anyone who plays the Yankees.
You don’t like the Yankees? You’re from the Bronx.
I’m a Baltimore Orioles fan. When I grew up in the Bronx, I went for the underdog, and I rooted for the worst team in baseball, and I picked the St. Louis Browns, and if you know your history, you know that Bill Veeck sold the Browns to Baltimore.
I grew up an Orioles fan.
This year they look good, I was bummed out, they lost yesterday. They hit a lot of balls on the nose, but they him them at people, and they lost to the Yankees, 2-1. Is [Orioles second baseman] Brian Roberts Jewish?
I don’t think so.
Somebody told me that. I think I’m confusing him with Brian Roberts, the CEO of Comcast, who is Jewish. I knew him cause of the Maccabiah Games. He loves squash. He’s a ranked squash player, and he represented the U.S. in squash.
What a world. Okay, last question: what’s your Finals prediction, and what’s your Finals rooting hope?
Finals prediction would be Miami and Oklahoma City, and I’d root for Oklahoma City, although this could be Miami’s year. Injuries could come. You never know. But if things go along, I would say that it would be Miami in six.