Born: May 19, 1928
Died: December 10, 2015
Position: Power Forward
Syracuse Nationals (NBL/NBA) – 1948-’63
Philadelphia 76ers (NBA) – 1963-’64
Dolph Schayes’ basketball career was unusually expansive for his era. He began playing in the 1948-49 NBL season and wouldn’t finish until the 1963-64 NBA season. When he hung up his sneakers, Schayes had played more seasons, more games, and more minutes* than any player in the NBL/BAA/NBA aegis. He was second in points only to Bob Pettit. He was second in FT% only to Bill Sharman. He was third in rebounds behind Bill Russell and Pettit. He also was 8th in assists.
*(Bob Cousy officially has more recorded minutes, but Schayes is a mere 331 minutes behind Cousy. Given that Schayes had two full seasons of unrecorded minutes, he surely has the edge on Cousy.)
These rankings illustrate that Schayes was a titan of his era and a well-rounded titan at that. He helped lay the groundwork for big men who could shoot outside, rebound in the interior, and pass with ease. Schayes’ actual method of shooting, a set shot, may be archaic but his long-distance employment of it remains the important lesson and accomplishment. He could always sucker out bigger men to defend him on the long-range bombs, which would open up avenues for his terrific passing and capable driving.
The most dangerous aspect of Schayes’ game may very well have been his free throw shooting. When holding on to a lead, he was a big target you could easily get the ball to and depend on to make free throws down the stretch. After starting his career shooting in the mid-70% range, Schayes developed into a marksmen at the line. Seven times he shot over 85% and twice over 90%.
The Syracuse Nationals benefited mightily from the game of Schayes. As a rookie he won the NBL’s final Rookie of the Year award in 1949. That league would merge with the BAA forming the NBA the next season and Schayes’ Nationals remained a perennial powerhouse. Over his career the franchise made seven division finals and three NBA Finals. The Nats faced defeat in their first two Finals appearances at the hands of the Minneapolis Lakers, but in 1955 they broke through and captured the title.
Schayes by this point was the team’s undisputed star, but it was a stellar all-around effort. In the decisive Game 7 in 1955 against the Fort Wayne Pistons, seven Nats players scored in double figures. Al Cervi, Paul Seymour, Red Kerr, Red Rocha, George King, and Hal Greer, are just some of the great teammates that helped Dolph carry Syracuse to all these years of glory.
However, Schayes remains the paragon of Syracuse basketball and of big men who have the moxie to clean the glass and the touch to nail sweet outside shots.
NBL Rookie of the Year (1949)
6x All-NBA 1st Team (1952-’55, 1957-’58)
6x All-NBA 2nd Team (1950-’51, 1956, 1959-’61)
12x All-Star (1951-’62)
Regular Season: 1059 Games
Playoffs: 103 Games