Did you know that the very first points scored in the National Basketball Association were netted on a two-handed underhand lay-up by a six-foot-tall Jewish player named Ossie Schectman? If the answer is no, then you’re much like the rest of the world that didn’t realize that Schectman, a product of the tenement houses and Samuel J. Tilden High School in Brooklyn, was the inaugural scorer in the NBA until the late 1980s.
When Ricky Green of the Utah Jazz scored the 5 millionth N.B.A. point in January 1988, the league, whose records date back to the Basketball Association of America’s founding in 1946, embarked on research to find out who scored the first points and discovered Schectman’s layup. When Ben Gordon of the Detroit Pistons scored the N.B.A.’s 10 millionth point in January 2010, Schectman was remembered once more.
Schectman scored 11 points in the Knicks’ 68-66 opening-night victory over the Huskies. He averaged 8.1 points a game for the 1946-47 season, making him the third-highest scorer, behind Bud Palmer and Sonny Hertzberg, on a Knicks team that made it to the playoff semifinals.
Schectman also played in the American Basketball League for the Philadelphia SPHAs, “whose nickname came from the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association,” prior to joining the Knicks. He soon left the game to work as a salesman in the Garment District because the pay would better support a man with a family.
Schechtman died yesterday at 94. Watch him score the first basket below:
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.