Way, waaaay, back in the day, there was a man simply called “The Touch”. The man who gained that tactile moniker had a gossamer shot that softly rolled and spinned a basketball into the hoop.
At the age of 21, the Touch took the Basketball Association of America (BAA) by storm. The six-foot-two shooting guard finished 5th in both, points per game and field goal percentage. He was named to the All-BAA 1st Team. His Chicago Stags finished with the BAA’s second-best record and would advance all the way to the Finals, losing to the Philadelphia Warriors.
Just a year earlier, however, the Touch was simply “Max Zaslofsky” at St. John’s University. He finished third on his own college team in scoring and wasn’t a sure bet to succeed in the pros. However, with a family to feed, Zaslofsky had no choice but to leave college and take a stab at being a professional ball player.
His old high school coach told Zaslofsky that if he practiced every day over the summer of 1946 he’d have a great shot at a pro career. Zaslofsky took the advice and after a summer of hard playground battles in New York City, he tried out and made the roster of the Chicago Stags.
And thus the Touch was born.
Stags teammate Chick Halbert described Zaslofsky as “a terrific set shooter.” He’d go on to declare that “if [Zaslofsky] wasn’t lightning fast from baseline to baseline, he was very quick and tricky with his dribble.”
Zaslofsky’s touch would only get more golden over the next few seasons. In 1948 he finished second in PPG in the BAA with 21.0. The average made him one of the few players in pro basketball to that point to ever crack 20 PPG for a season. The next year he repeated the feet and finished third in scoring behind Joe Fulks and George Mikan.
In 1950, Zaslofsky made his fourth-straight all-pro 1st team. However, for the first time, the all-pro team wasn’t of the BAA, but the NBA. The merger of the BAA and NBL created, finally, a league that collected most of basketball’s best professional talent. In the NBA’s very first season, though, Zaslofsky’s Stags would be in their very last as a franchise.
Folding prior to the 1950-51 season, the Stags roster was dispersed and the Touch landed in the Big Apple with the New York Knicks. The high-scoring Zaslofsky was the perfect man to replace Carl Braun who’d been drafted into military service. The Touch helped place the Knicks in back-to-back NBA Finals in 1951 and 1952.
His performances down the stretch of the 1951 Finals was particularly zealous. After averaging just 13 points in the regular season, Zaslofsky put out an awful Game 1 of the Finals with just 6 points. Over the next 5 games, though, Zaslofsky averaged 22 points on 42% shooting to pull the Knicks out of a 3-0 series hole and force a Game 7. They’d lose that final contest and thus the Finals to the Rochester Royals. The 1952 Finals ended in a similarly aching Game 7 defeat, but to the Minneapolis Lakers.
Zaslofsky finished his career as a reserve on the Fort Wayne Pistons in the 1954 and 1955 seasons. By then he was 30 years old and no longer the promising prodigy of years gone by. He’d become obsessed with his point production, ironically, as he became worse at producing those points. Vanity had taken him over to a degree, but when you’re a professional athlete of the highest order, unfortunately, the ego often inflates with the success.
Max Zaslofsky was definitely a man who achieved great riches. But incredibly meek and humble is the man who can be called “The Touch” and walk away with his pride in proper proportion.
Seasons Played: 1947 – 1955
3x All-BAA 1st Team (1947-’49)
All-NBA 1st Team (1950)
BAA – 167 Games
18.4 PPG, 1.3 APG, 33.4% FG, 79.4% FT
NBA – 373 Games
13.2 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 35.0% FG, 75.5% FT
FT% Leader (1950)
BAA All-Time Ranks
2nd Points, 3rd PPG
1st FTs Made, 8th FT%
2nd FGs Made, 29th FG%
15th Assists, 2nd Games Played
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1950-’55)
14th Points, 14th PPG
14th FTs Made, 29th FT%
13th FGs Made, 27th Assists
17th Games Played, 33rd Minutes Played