BROOKLYN - When young fans of the NBA look at players from years past, they often wonder how they would have fit in today's game. Though his career ended more than 50 years ago, there is little doubt that Dolph Schayes' game would have translated quite nicely to today's NBA.
Schayes, a 12-time All-Star and a Hall of Famer, died Thursday at age 87 from cancer.
At 6-8, which was a very big man when Schayes played for the Syracuse Nationals from 1948 to 1963, he didn't rely on his height to just play near the basket. Instead, he was in constant motion to get off his shots. The team moved to Philadelphia in 1963 and Schayes became a player/coach for the 76ers. He retired from playing after a season in Philly, then coached three more. His final season of coaching, 1965-66, the 76ers lost in the conference finals to the Boston Celtics. The team included Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Luke Jackson, Wali Jones, Chet Walker and rookie Billy Cunningham. The next season, under Alex Hannum, the Sixers won the NBA title, posted a record of 68-13 in the regular season, and went on to be considered one of the NBA's all-time top teams.
"He was my first coach in the NBA," Cunningham said. "What a great, great man. I still can picture him playing with his right hand in a cast, he played lefthanded. I can remember that. He used to shoot foul shots, and if his ball hit the rim, it didn't count. He was a gentle man, not made for coaching. Too nice of a man. Thinking back, I understood what he went through; he coached a lot of former teammates and so did I.
"He was so fluid. He could go to the basket with either hand. He had a two-handed set shot that he could get off so quickly. He would have been a monster with the three-point shot. He could flat-out shoot it from anywhere. Unlimited range."
Schayes, who won a championship with Syracuse in 1955, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973. He also was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in 1996. He finished his 16-year career with 18,438 points and 11,256 rebounds, for averages of 18.5 and 12.1. He was also an 85 percent free throw shooter and dealt 3.1 assists a game.