The Long Island University Blackbirds are mourning the loss of one of the giants of their program this week — Oscar Benjamin “Ossie” Schectman — who passed away on Tuesday, July 30 at the age of 94.
Schectman was most famous for scoring the first basket in the NBA’s history as a member of the New York Knickerbockers in 1946, but he also lead LIU to NIT titles in 1938-39, on a team that went a perfect 24-0, and in 1940-41. During the 1940-41 season, he was named Converse first team All-America. The Blackbirds had a 66-6 overall record in his four years with the team.
“He was just a terrific guy,” said Greg Fox, the associate director of athletics at LIU. “One would never know that in his era he was one of the greatest players of his time.”
Schectman was most famous for being a pioneer of the NBA and scoring its very first basket in the association’s history. On Nov. 1, 1946, he was playing for the Knicks against the Toronto Huskies at the Maple Leaf Gardens when the 7,090 fans on hand got to see him put New York up 2-0. It was a feat that Schectman didn’t know about, or at least didn’t think about, until 1988 when the NBA celebrated its 5 millionth point in its history.
“Growing up with him, I never heard him mention it,” Peter Schectman, his son, told the Associated Press. “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.”
That was his only season in the NBA, which was then known as the Basketball Association of America. He was third on the Knicks with an average of 8.1 points and led the team with 2.0 assists per game that season. The Knicks finished 33-27 that year and lost in the playoffs during the semifinals.
Before and after his tenure with the Knicks, Schectman played in the American Basketball League, first with the Philadelphia Sphas from 1941-1946 and then with the Paterson Crescents from 1947-1948. He won the ABL championship in 1942-43, 1943-44 and 1944-45.
Schectman, who was born in Kew Gardens on March 30, 1919 to Russian-Jewish parents and eventually attended Samuel J. Tilden High School in Brooklyn, was inducted into the LIU Hall of Fame, the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame. He was also honored with a Distinguished Alumnus Award by LIU during its commencement ceremonies at the Barclays Center last May.
“It was great to see him for the commencement that day,” Fox said. “We would have loved to have had him back at the school more often, but it was difficult to arrange it because he lived in Florida for most of the latter part of his life. Even when he moved to Westchester it was hard.
“I’m certain that he loved the Barclays Center and loved the strides the LIU basketball team has made in recent years.”