Oscar “Ossie” Schectman, the former New York Knicks guard who scored the first basket in NBA history nearly seven decades ago, died Tuesday. He was 94.
His son Peter Schectman confirmed the death but did not disclose the location. He said his father did not have a prolonged illness and died after developing complications related to respiratory failure.
“Ossie Schectman was a true NBA pioneer,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said, adding that scoring the league’s first basket “placed him permanently in the annals of NBA history.”
Mr. Schectman scored the opening basket of a game Nov. 1, 1946, in what was then known as the Basketball Association of America. He was playing for the Knicks when he made a layup after cutting down the center of the lane against the Toronto Huskies. The Knicks wound up winning that game at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens 68-66. Mr. Schectman went on to average 8.1 points that season, his only one with the franchise.
The significance of scoring the first points in league history was lost on Mr. Schectman and others for decades. In a telephone interview Tuesday, his son said he wasn’t aware of it until the league researched some of its points milestones in 1988, around the time Utah’s Rickey Green scored the 5 millionth point in league history.
According to Stats, Mr. Schectman was the first of 3,779 players to score at least one point in a NBA regular-season game.
“Growing up with him, I never heard him mention it,” Peter Schectman said. “He probably didn’t concentrate on it. He was the captain of the team, and the idea was to win ballgames. It wasn’t discussed that much. He certainly never boasted about it, but when the time came up and it was brought into the light, it was thrilling for him.”
Oscar B. Schectman was born March 30, 1919, in New York City and was a graduate of Long Island University, which presented him a distinguished alumnus award this year. Mr. Schectman played under legendary coach Clair Bee for the school’s undefeated NIT championship team in 1939. He was selected as a first-team Converse All-American in 1941, the school said.
Mr. Schectman was inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994 and was a central figure in the documentary “The First Basket,” detailing Jewish basketball history. He also had a long career in the garment industry after his basketball career, then retired to Florida before returning to the New York area a few years ago. He remained a fan of the NBA throughout his life, his son said.
Schectman said his father particularly enjoyed regular gatherings that would draw up to 50 other former players in South Florida.
Mr. Schectman’s wife of 70 years, Evelyn, died in 2011. Survivors include two sons and several grandchildren.
— Associated Press