Man who scored first points in NBA history dies at 94

Story highlights

  • New York City native Ossie Schectman starred at Long Island University
  • He played basketball professionally, including in 1946-47 with the Knicks
  • Schectman scored what's considered the NBA's first ever points in 1946
  • "Ossie Schectman was a true NBA pioneer," the NBA's commissioner says

Ossie Schectman may not have had the hops of Michael Jordan, the strength of Wilt Chamberlain or the touch of Jerry West.

But he'll always be the first.

Schectman played a single season -- 1946-1947 -- with the New York Knickerbockers, but still managed to make his mark on the National Basketball Association by scoring what the league says is its first points.

On Tuesday, according to his former team, Schectman died at age 94.

"Ossie Schectman was a true NBA pioneer," NBA Commissioner David Stern said.

The history was made November 1, 1946, when the Knicks traveled to Canada to take on the Toronto Huskies. Video from that game -- the first in what was then the Basketball Association of America, which a few years later became the NBA -- shows him finishing a give-and-go with a layup.

"They score a clean first basket," the announcer says on the video. "Dazzling passing."

By the time that shot went through the hoop, Schectman had already made a name for himself on the court.

The New York native attended Samuel Tilden High School in Brooklyn, then went about 25 miles east to play at Long Island University. There, he starred on two teams -- in 1939 and 1941 -- that won the National Invitation Tournament, then considered in many respects more prestigious than the NCAA tourney. He earned first-team All-America honors after that second title, his university notes.

After graduating college, Schectman joined the Philadelphia Sphas (which stood for South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) of the American Basketball League.

He would perhaps be most associated with that pro team if it were not for his time with the Knicks, including the first points in its first game, which New York won 68-66. His on-court prowess helped land him spots in the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Long Island University Athletic Hall of Fame and New York City Basketball Hall of Fame.

"What kind of player was Ossie?" asks a tweet on the official NBA History feed. "Think (Chris Paul). A relentless penetrator who would routinely set up his teammates."

Schectman was accomplished outside basketball as well.

As LIU noted in a profile upon granting Schectman with its distinguished alumni award in 2013, he served in the U.S. Air Corps during World War II.

Schectman had success in business as well, including more than three decades working in Manhattan's garment district before his retirement from Collins and Aikman.

He and his wife, Evelyn, had two children and two grandchildren.

Still, it's that one shot in the fall of 1946, immortalized in the documentary film "The First Basket," that many most associate him with, now and for decades to come.

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