Menu JTA Search

Edward Gottlieb Dead at 81

Funeral services were held here yesterday for Edward Gottlieb, one of the pioneers of professional basketball in this country, who died last Friday at the age of 81. A day before his death he was elected to the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and will be enshrined ultimately in the Wingate School of Physical Education in Netanya, Israel together with other Jewish sports great of the past and present.

A member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, a founder of the National Basketball Association, and a member of the U.S. Committee Sports for Israel Board of Directors, Gottlieb donated a dormitory to the Wingate School several years ago. He was instrumental in promoting professional basketball in this country to the extent where it vies with baseball and football for national recognition as the number one sport in the nation.

Gottlieb started his career in promoting sports at the age of 19 in Philadelphia when he started the famous Philadelphia Sphas, standing for the South Philadelphia Hebrew Athletic Society. Fielding teams both in baseball and basketball, the Sphas for many years ruled the roost in the American Basketball League and his semi-pro Spha baseball team used to play major league teams on Sunday afternoons before the Blue Laws were eliminated in the state of Pennsylvania.

The late Connie Mack, president-manager of the famous Philadelphia Athletics, wrote Gottlieb a letter in which he said: “I’ll never forget what you did to make it possible for major league baseball to be played in Philadelphia.” The young, dynamic Gottlieb, at that time, traveled wide and far to have the Blue Laws eliminated, albeit they were to his advantage in that they gave him time to expose his famous semi-pro baseball team which was comprised of many players who ultimately went up to the big leagues. Gottlieb was the first promoter to employ the double header program in basketball. As a matter of fact, Ned Irish, who later went on to fame as the promoter of collegiate basketball in Madison Square Garden, learned about double header basketball programming by watching the famous Sphas play their Saturday night twin bills, while he, Irish, attended the University of Pennsylvania. Once Irish got to the Garden he immediately installed the double header program which is fashioned after the late Gottlieb’s idea.

The Philadelphia Warriors, the first NBA League Champions in 1946-47, was coached to that status by Gottlieb. Subsequently he was to take over the role of general manager and owner of the club and eventually sold the team to interests in San Francisco.

NEXT STORY