Dolph Grund­man is the author of Jim Pol­lard: The Kan­ga­roo Kid, The Gold­en Age of Ama­teur Bas­ket­ball: The AAU Tour­na­ment, 1921 – 1968, and, most recent­ly, Dolph Schayes and the Rise of Pro­fes­sion­al Bas­ket­ball. He is blog­ging here today for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s Vis­it­ing Scribe series.

How did a his­to­ri­an who grew up on Chicago’s south side wind up writ­ing a biog­ra­phy of Dolph Schayes, the Hall of Fame bas­ket­ball play­er for the Syra­cuse Nation­als? Let me take you back to 1954, my fresh­man year at Chicago’s Bowen High School. I was thir­teen years old and my par­ents had named me Adolph after my grand­fa­ther who had left Ger­many in the 1890s. My moth­er was a Pol­ish-Amer­i­can and we lived in a pre­dom­i­nant­ly Pol­ish neigh­bor­hood. As you can imag­ine Adolph was not a very pop­u­lar­ly name in my com­mu­ni­ty and drew a lit­tle unwant­ed atten­tion. In 1954 I was an aspir­ing bas­ket­ball play­er and look­ing for any­body to iden­ti­fy with named Adolph. There was Adolph Rupp the leg­endary coach of Ken­tucky but he was not a play­er. In 1954 the NBA was strug­gling to find an iden­ti­ty and some of its games were tele­vised on the week­ends. It was then that I dis­cov­ered Dolph Schayes the star of the Syra­cuse Nation­als. He pos­sessed a great two-hand­ed set shot which was still a pop­u­lar shot uti­lized by play­ers of all ages in the 1950s. Dolph was a play­er with whom I could identify.

After play­ing bas­ket­ball at Bowen, I played four more years at Albion Col­lege. My first coach start­ed call­ing me Dolph which has stuck ever since. Even­tu­al­ly I com­plet­ed a doc­tor­al degree in his­to­ry and wound up teach­ing at Met­ro­pol­i­tan State Uni­ver­si­ty in Den­ver. One of the cours­es I cre­at­ed was a study of Sports in Amer­i­ca. Between 1935 and 1968 one of the biggest sports events in Den­ver was the Nation­al Ama­teur Ath­let­ic Union’s Bas­ket­ball Tour­na­ment. Begin­ning in 1936 the win­ner and sec­ond place team would play in a tour­na­ment that would deter­mine the play­ers and coach­es of the Unit­ed States Olympic team. In 1948 I dis­cov­ered that Schayes played in the Olympic Tri­als held at Madi­son Square Gar­den for New York Uni­ver­si­ty. Although Dolph did not make the Olympic team, he was among the alternates.

Dolph Grund­man is pro­fes­sor of his­to­ry at Met­ro­pol­i­tan State Uni­ver­si­ty of Den­ver, Colorado. 

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