SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes, 87, a 12-time all-star who refined the big man's role in the infancy of the National Basketball Association and a former player-coach and coach of the 76ers, has died.
Schayes had terminal cancer that was diagnosed six months ago, and he died Thursday after being stricken with a severe infection, his son Danny said.
Dolph Schayes was the franchise player for the old Syracuse Nationals from 1948 to 1963 and was voted one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. He revolutionized the post position, always in perpetual motion instead of just planting himself in the paint.
As a 16-year-old freshman center, Schayes led New York University to the NCAA Final Four. He played his entire 16-season career with the Syracuse franchise, scoring 18,438 points and snaring 11,256 rebounds.
The 6-foot-8 Schayes was a seminal figure in the game. With a deadly two-handed, high-arcing set shot that he stubbornly used well into the era of the jump shot, he helped redefine the big man in the NBA.
Schayes grew up in the Bronx during the Depression and delivered laundry for cash. He honed his game in the schoolyards of Junior High 79 and DeWitt Clinton High School.
"When we played basketball, I did everything. I passed, I dribbled, I played outside," said Schayes, who was 6-5 at age 11.
The New York Knicks chose Schayes fourth in the 1948 Basketball Association of America draft and the Tri-Cities Blackhawks picked him first in the National Basketball League before trading his rights to Syracuse.
"Dolph is a legendary figure in Syracuse," said Jim Boeheim, longtime coach of Syracuse University. "He was an all-time great, great player. His camp had a big influence on me."
When the Nationals moved to Philadelphia in 1963, Schayes was named player-coach of the 76ers. He retired as a player after the season, but stayed on as coach for three more seasons, compiling a 129-111 record with the Sixers.
"We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dolph Schayes, a pioneer and iconic member of the Philadelphia 76ers organization and one of the greatest players ever to play the game of basketball," said Scott O'Neil, Sixers CEO.
"Dolph was an integral part of the foundation on which this franchise was built - first in Syracuse and later in Philadelphia," O'Neil said." He will be fondly remembered for the legacy he not only created on the court, but the way he represented the game off the court."