Tag Archives: Basketball

Jew of the Week: Abe Saperstein

Abraham Michael Saperstein (1902-1966) was born in London and grew up in Chicago, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants. From a young age, Saperstein was fascinated with sport, and played on his high school’s baseball, basketball, football, and boxing teams. Forced to drop out of university to support his struggling family, Saperstein never lost his dream of an athletic career, despite being just 5’3″ tall, and being a Jew in a time of rampant anti-Semitism. While working as a playground supervisor, Saperstein was given an opportunity to play for a semi-pro basketball team. He did well, and soon became the team’s coach, manager, and booking agent. In 1926, Saperstein founded his own basketball team, the Harlem Globetrotters.”Harlem” was not for its geographical location – it was based in Chicago – but because it was an all-black team. At the time, most sports leagues were for whites only, with separate leagues for black people. Basketball in particular was considered a “white sport”, with black players banned from the NBA. Saperstein and his original five players made just $8 (split evenly between them) in their first game. Throughout the difficult years of the Great Depression, Saperstein was the team’s coach, manager, driver, publicist, and even substitute player! The team was once described as “Four clean-limbed young colored men and a squat bandy-legged chap of Jewish extraction”. To make ends meet, the team had to play just about every night. Since most hotels did not allow black guests, Saperstein often snuck his players into his own room. The team quickly built a reputation for “ball-handling wizardry” and showmanship. In 1948, the Globetrotters played against the all-white NBA champions, the Minneapolis Lakers. To everyone’s shock, the Globetrotters won. A year later, they won a rematch. This proved once and for all that black players were just as good (if not better) than white players. The following year, the first black player (a former Globetrotter) was signed to an NBA team, finally breaking basketball’s colour barrier. That same year, the Globetrotters played in Madison Square Garden, the first time a basketball game sold out at MSG. Saperstein then established two more basketball teams in the US, as well as an international one. He also founded and owned several baseball teams. His ultimate wish was to own an NBA team, but he was thwarted time and again. Instead, he started his own competing league, the American Basketball League (ABL). To make it more exciting, Saperstein added a new line to the court and invented the three-point shot. The ABL did not last long, but the NBA soon adopted the three-point shot into its own league, forever changing the game. Saperstein was both a visionary and a tireless labourer. He took just one day off a year – Yom Kippur – and died of a heart attack while at work. Saperstein has been credited with revolutionizing basketball, making sports more entertaining, and most importantly, playing a key role in ending athletic racial segregation. One former player said the Globetrotters had “done more for the perception of black people, and the perception of America, than almost anything you could think of.” The Globetrotters still put on 450 shows a year, and have played over 26,000 exhibition games, in over 120 countries, making them one of the most popular and well-known basketball teams of all time.

The Rebbe and the Coach of the Harlem Globetrotters

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Interest-Free Loans Up to $10,000 for Jewish Residents of Ontario

Words of the Week

He that waits upon Fortune, is never sure of a dinner.
– Benjamin Franklin

The 1950 Harlem Globetrotters team, with Saperstein at right

Jews of the Week: Omri Casspi and Gal Mekel

First Israelis in the NBA

Omri Casspi of the Houston Rockets

Omri Casspi of the Houston Rockets

Omri Moshe Casspi was born in Holon, Israel and grew up playing basketball. At 17, he made his debut for Maccabi Tel Aviv, eventually leading the team to the Euroleague finals in 2008. The following year he was drafted 23rd overall by the Sacramento Kings, making him the first Israeli to be drafted in the first round, and later the first Israeli to play in the NBA. In his first full game he scored 22 points, the most scored by any Kings player in their first start. In 2010 he participated in the All-Star Weekend. He now plays for the Houston Rockets. Last month, he played a game against Gal Mekel – the second Israeli player in the NBA, who joined the Dallas Mavericks earlier in the year. It was the first time two Israelis faced each other on opposing teams in the NBA (see the highlights here). Mekel, born in Petah-Tikva, is a two-time Israeli Super League MVP. He and Casspi are former teammates, having played together for Israel’s national basketball teams, as well as Maccabi Tel Aviv.

A Jewish Look at The ‘Word of the Year’

Israeli Woosh Water Reinventing the Drinking Fountain

Are Tolkien’s dwarves an allegory for the Jews?

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Palestinian President: Don’t Boycott Israel

Cool Video: Seeing the Good

Words of the Week

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered; Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway.

Gal Mekel of the Dallas Mavericks

Gal Mekel of the Dallas Mavericks

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; It was never between you and them anyway.
– Mother Teresa