Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ralph Kaplowitz, Played in NBA's First Game, Dies

My condolences to the family of Ralph Kaplowitz, of blessed memory, who passed away on February 2 at his home in Queens. He was 89. Mr. Kaplowitz, a 6'2" guard out of NYU, when NYU was a college powerhouse, played for the New York Knicks and the Philadelphia Warriors. Mr. Kaplowitz took the court for the Knicks against the Toronto Huskies on November 1, 1946, at Maple Leaf Gardens in what is now recognized as the first NBA game ever played. At the time, the league was known as the Basketball Association of America. Kaplowitz was traded that season to the Warriors, who went on to win the championship, so he has the unique distinction of playing in the first game and winning the first championship.

In an interesting sidelight, that first Knick team was broken up - not because of huge salaries and lousy performance like the Knicks teams of recent vintage but because of anti-Semitism. As Kaplowitz's daughter recalls: "“My father often told us that the first Knicks team, which had other Jewish players on it, was broken up because fans, especially on the road, would often chant nasty things,” Barbara Kaplowitz said. “But my father was too self-confident a man to ever let stuff like that bother him."

Cross-posted from SportsBiz- The Business of Sports Illuminated

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