Adolph “Dolph” Schayes (May 19, 1928 – December 10, 2015) was an American professional basketball player and coach in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Schayes played his entire career with the Nationals and their successor, the Philadelphia 76ers, from 1948 to 1964. In his 16-year career, he led his team into the playoffs 15 times.
Schayes was drafted by both the New York Knicks in the 1948 BAA Draft (1st round; 4th pick overall), and by the Tri-Cities Blackhawks in the NBL draft. The Blackhawks traded his rights to the Syracuse Nationals, who then offered him a contract worth $7,500 (worth $73,900 today), 50% more than the Knicks, influencing his decision to go to Syracuse. Schayes played one season in the NBL and was named the league’s Rookie of the Year. The following season (1949–50), the Nationals moved to the newly formed National Basketball Association as part of the merger between the BAA and NBL.
Although tall for his era at 6′ 7″ (201 cm), Schayes was especially known for his deadly, high-arcing, outside set-shot. It arced so high that his teammates referred to it as “Sputnik”. Defenders who attempted to deny him the outside shot were confronted by his powerful drive to the basket. These two offensive weapons served him well, even as the NBA was transitioning into a league of jump-shooters.
Early in Schayes’ career, he broke his right arm and played almost an entire season in a cast. Oddly, this injury became a seminal point in his development: he learned to shoot with his off-hand, making him especially difficult to guard. He was one of the best—and the last—to use a two-handed set-shot with feet planted on the floor, before the game changed to one-handed jump shots.
Schayes led the NBA in free throw percentage three times: in 1958 (.904), 1960 (.892) and 1962 (.896). In 1959, he scored a career-high 50 points in a game against the Celtics. In the NBA, he didn’t miss a single game from February 17, 1952 to December 26, 1961, an NBA-record streak of 706 games. In 1960–61, he again led the league in free throws (with 680). In 1961, he became the first player in NBA history to amass 30,000 career total PRA (Points + Rebounds + Assists). He was the first person in the NBA to ever surpass 15,000 points.
A 12-time NBA All-Star, Schayes was a six-time All-NBA First Team honoree, and was also selected to the All-NBA Second Team six times. He came in second in MVP voting in 1958, and 5th in both 1956 and 1957. When he retired in 1964, he held the NBA records for games played (996), foul shots made (6,712), attempted (7,904), personal fouls (3,432) and was second to Bob Pettit in scoring (18,438) and third in rebounds (11,256)
Towards the end of his playing career, he became a player-coach with Philadelphia. After retiring from playing, he transitioned into a pure coaching role with the 76ers, earning NBA Coach of the Year honors in 1966. He briefly coached with the Buffalo Braves.
In 1970, he was elected to the NBA 25th Anniversary Team as one of the top 12 retired players.
In 1972, he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, the US National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and the National Jewish American Sports Hall of Fame.
In 1996, he was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.
The 76ers retired his jersey on March 12, 2016 while the Syracuse Crunch retired it on March 26, 2016.
Career highlights and awards
NBA champion (1955)
12× NBA All-Star (1951–1962)
6× All-NBA First Team (1952–1955, 1957, 1958)
6× All-NBA Second Team (1950, 1951, 1956, 1959–1961)
NBA rebounding leader (1951)
NBA 25th Anniversary Team
NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
Haggerty Award (1948)
No. 4 retired by Philadelphia 76ers
NBA Coach of the Year (1966)
Career NBA statistics
Points 19,247 (18.2 ppg) (NBL/BAA/NBA)
18,438 (18.5 ppg) (BAA/NBA)
Rebounds 11,256 (12.1 rpg)
Assists 3,072 (3.1 apg)