The NBA Draft was Thursday, and unfortunately this year’s list of prospects did not include any outstanding Jewish players.
Since the Beren Academy kids aren’t old enough yet, and the only player close to Jewish is projected number-one pick Anthony Davis, who’s unibrow reminds me of a few Israeli men I know, we decided to remember the days when Jews had a much bigger presence on the court (not off it like today).
Some Jews have even been drafted pretty high.
Here are our Jewish top 10 picks:
10. Omri Casspi (23rd Pick)
Drafted: 2009, 1st round – 23rd pick
Team: Sacramento Kings
College: N/A, Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)
Position: Small Forward
NBA Career: 2009-present – 8.7 Points per game, 4.2 Rebounds per game, 1.1 Assists per game
Did you know: Omri is the first (and only) Israeli player in the NBA.
9. Irv Bemoras (21st Pick)
Drafted: 1953, 3rd round – 21st pick
Team: Milwaukee Hawks (now Atlanta Hawks)
NBA Career: 1953-1957 – 6.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.0 APG
Did you know: Bemoras (1930-2007) is a member of the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame and also had a really awesome mustache that made him look like young Walt Disney, only better at basketball and not an anti-Semite.
8. Hank Finkel (17th Pick)
Drafted: 1966, 2nd round – 17th pick
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
NBA Career: 1966-1957 – 5.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.8 APG
Did you know: Other than being one very tall Jew (7 feet), and winning the 1974 NBA Championship with the Boston Celtics, Finkel established his own office furniture company after he retired.
7. Danny Schayes (13th pick)
Drafted: 1981, 1st round – 13th pick
Team: Utah Jazz
NBA Career: 1981-1999 – 7.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 0.7 APG
Did you know: Danny is the son of Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes (he’s on the list too), and was also coached by his father during the 1977 Maccabiah Games, where Team USA won the gold.
6. Ernie Grunfeld (11th pick)
Drafted: 1977, 1st round – 11th pick
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
Position: Shooting Guard/Small Forward
NBA Career: 1977-1986 – 7.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.0 APG
Did you know: Grunfeld, who was born in Romania and moved to New York when he was 9, won the gold medal with Team USA at the 1976 Olympics Games in Montreal. Sadly, he only won the Silver at the 1973 Maccabiah Games (lost to Israel in the finals)
5. Rudy LaRusso (10th pick)
Drafted: 1959, 2nd round – 10th pick
Team: Minneapolis Lakers (now Los Angeles Lakers)
Position: Power Forward/Center
NBA Career: 1959-1969 – 16.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.3 APG
Did you know: LaRusso (1937-2004) had a small cameo role in the Gilligan’s Island third season episode “Bang! Bang! Bang!” as ‘Agent Michaels’.
4. Barry Kramer (6th pick)
Year: 1964, 1st round – 6th pick
Team: San Francisco Warriors (now Golden State Warriors)
Position: Small Forward / Guard
NBA career: 1964-1970 – 3.6 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.7 APG
Did you know: Kramer is currently a New York State Supreme Court Justice.
3. Dolph Schayes (4th pick)
Drafted: 1948, 1st round – 4th pick
Team: Syracuse Nationals (now Philadelphia 76ers)
Position: Power Forward / Center
NBA Career: 1948-1964 – 18.5 PPG, 12.1 PPG, 3.1 APG
Did you know: Dolph (Adolph) Schayes is an NBA Champion (1955 Nationals), 12-time NBA All-Star, NBA Coach of the Year (1966, Sixers) and a Basketball Hall of Famer. Considered by many the best Jewish basketball player of all time.
2. Neal Walk (2nd pick)
Drafted: 1969, 1st round – 2nd pick
Team: Phoenix Suns
NBA Career: 1969-1978 – 12.6 PPG, 7.7 PPG, 2.1 APG
Did you know: Walk is still the Florida Gators all-time rebounding leader. A tumor in his spine forced him to use a wheelchair. In a 1990 ceremony at the White House, Walk was honored by U.S. President George H.W. Bush as “Wheelchair Athlete of The Year.”
1. Art Heyman (1st pick)
Drafted: 1963, 1st round – 1st pick
Team: New York Knicks
Position: Small Forward/Guard
NBA Career: 1963-1970 – 13.0 PPG, 4.7 PPG, 2.8 APG
Did you know: Heyman is the first and only Jewish player to be picked first in the NBA draft. Heyman was supposed to play for the University of North Carolina, but at the last minute switched to UNC’s biggest rival, Duke. That’s a big no-no in the Tar Heel State.
Do you remember these great NBA players? Share your memories!