A Pioneer Still On His Game
Jul 03, 2013Posted by james
Did you ever hear of Ossie Schectman? He’s 93 now, and he lives in a senior living community in Rockland County. He has a quick smile and is a favorite of the staff.
Ossie was a collegiate All-American basketball point guard on two NIT championship teams at Long Island University. He also is in the National Basketball Association record books, having scored, on November 1, 1946, the first basket in NBA history.
Okay, so he isn’t as familiar a name as Michael Jordon or LeBron James. But, he should be, or at least he should be remembered and highly regarded by those who have come to play after him.
Ossie was “a tireless worker who drove fiercely, passed smoothly and set up the plays,” wrote Arthur Daley of The New York Times when he described Schectman’s role in a victory over DePaul at Madison Square Garden before a crowd of 18,318. Daley continued: “With the hard driving Ossie Schectman blazing a trail the Blackbirds unleashed a sizzling rally that sent them ahead…LoBello was the high scorer with 12, but Dolly King with 11 and Schectman were the real stars.”
Ossie received similar kudos for leading LIU over Loyola during 1939 and Ohio University during 1941 in NIT championship games. He was a baseball player, too, and he had a tryout with the New York Giants. Since the NBA didn’t exist at the time, he first played for the Philadelphia Sphas (South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) and for a semipro baseball team on Long Island. None of this, though, led to lasting fame and fortune. With a wife and child to support, his primary source of income came from working in New York’s Garment District.
But, after World War II, he did get to play for the Knicks when they were in the Basketball Association of America (pre-NBA) and he finished third one season in the league in assists. As already noted, he scored the NBA’s first points.
While none of his hard work led to a lot of money, he isn’t bitter. He still loves the game and recalls that he had a great life that just happened to include sports.
It’s great to be involved in sports during our youth and young adult days. The structure, discipline and competition teach us a lot about life. A chosen few are destined for fame and fortune. Many others do quite well in the professional, collegiate, or high school game as coaches, instructors, or in management. Even more like me find other ways to remain in the game while channeling our sports experiences into successful business careers.
When all is done, let’s hope that we all can be like Ossie and reflect on a great life that just happened to include sports.