Getty Images Jordan Farmar, Kobe Bryant

On Nov. 1, 1946, one year after the end of World War II, the New York Knickerbockers and Toronto Huskies tipped off at Maple Leaf Gardens. Ossie Schectman, a Queens native born to Jewish immigrants from Russia, scored the first official basket of the BAA, as the NBA was known at the time. Schectman only played one season, but he started a Jewish legacy that is still present today.

After Schectman, it continued with stars including Dolph Schayes, Art Heyman and Ernie Grunfeld. On Hanukkah, we celebrate the eight greatest Jewish players to pick up an NBA basketball.

There are a number of Jewish-American basketball legends -- most notably Nat Holman -- who are regarded as collegiate and professional superstars before the founding of the NBA. Considering these players have few or no stats to use for comparison, they are omitted here. Also, Jewish coaches and executives such as Red Auerbach, Red Holzman and Larry Brown (who was on the 1964 U.S. Olympic team and led the ABA in assists three times) were judged solely on their on-court play and thus missed the cut. For the record, Neal Walk would have been No. 9 on the list, so he can blame that on Hanukkah having only eight nights.

8. Jordan Farmar

Getty Images 8. Jordan Farmar


Farmar was born to a Jewish mother, Melinda, and a non-Jewish father, Damon, who played minor league baseball. His parents divorced when he was 2, and Melinda remarried an Israeli man named Yehuda Kolani. Farmar went to Hebrew School and had a Bar Mitzvah at Temple Judea in Tarzana.

Farmar became a McDonald's All-American (2004) and went to UCLA, where, in two years, he earned Pac-10 Freshman of the Year (2004-05) and First-Team All-Pac-10 honors (2005-06). Farmar was drafted by the Lakers and won two titles during the first of his two stints with the club. He also played for the Clippers, Nets, Grizzlies and Kings.

Farmar, who also played a half-season with Darüşşafaka in Turkey, and a half-season with Maccabi Tel Aviv, was cut by the Kings this season after playing two games. In 504 NBA games, Farmar has averaged 7.7 points and 2.9 assists.

7. Omri Casspi

Getty Images 7. Omri Casspi


The first Israeli ever selected in the first round of the NBA Draft -- No. 23 overall in 2009 -- Casspi has held his own in eight NBA seasons. Through Dec. 22, Casspi had started 138 of 479 career games with averages of 8.4 points and 3.9 rebounds. A teenage star at Maccabi Tel Aviv, Casspi proved NBA talent can be groomed in the Holy Land.

Casspi can build an even greater legacy for himself if he can get Israel to its second Olympics, with the nation only qualifying in 1952. Israel finished tenth at EuroBasket 2015, with the top nine advancing to the Final Qualifying Tournament. Israel is one of four host nations for EuroBasket 2017, but Casspi will have his eye on 2019, perhaps his best chance to lead Israel to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

6. Max Zaslofsky

NBA.com 6. Max Zaslofsky


The NBA was founded in 1946 as the BAA with Slats Zaslofsky as the original Jewish star as a member of the Chicago Stags. In that inaugural season, Zaslofsky was a 20-year-old who had already spent two years fighting in the U.S. Navy during World War II and two years playing basketball for St. John's.

Zaslofsky made the league's first four All-NBA First Teams, leading the BAA in scoring in 1947-48. He also made one All-Star Team in 1952 after the All-Star Game was established in 1951. Zaslofsky averaged 14.8 points in his ten seasons.

5. Ernie Grunfeld

Getty Images 5. Ernie Grunfeld


Grunfeld got off to a late start in basketball. Born in Romania in 1955, Grunfeld immigrated with his parents in 1964, settling in Forest Hills in Queens. Grunfeld's next home was Knoxville, Tennessee, where he served as half the "Ernie and Bernie Show" with Bernard King. Grunfeld averaged 22.3 points and 6.6 rebounds in his four seasons for the Volunteers, claiming SEC Player of the Year and second-team All-American honors as a senior in 1976-77.

Grunfeld went to the Bucks with the No. 11 pick in the 1977 NBA Draft (King went to the Nets at No. 7), but he never became an NBA superstar. He averaged 7.4 points and 2.6 rebounds in 693 games. Grunfeld played his last four seasons with King on the Knicks. Grunfeld's final season was also when Patrick Ewing won Rookie of the Year with the Knicks.

Grunfeld later took on a role in the Knicks' front office and as general manager, built teams that made the NBA Finals in 1994 and 1999 (although, he was removed from his post with just eight games left in the 1998-99 season). Grunfeld served as the Bucks' general manager from 1999 to 2003 before becoming the Wizards' President of Basketball Operations, a job he still holds.

4. Rudy LaRusso

Getty Images 4. Rudy LaRusso


LaRusso was born to a Jewish mother and Italian father in Brooklyn. He starred at Dartmouth, making two All-Ivy League Teams and winning conference titles in 1958 and 1959 (the Big Green have not won the conference or reached the NCAA Tournament since LaRusso graduated). LaRusso's Ivy League background could sometimes deceive his opponents. "Roughhouse Rudy" was one of the most bruising players of the 1960s. In nine NBA seasons, he averaged 16.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and plenty of blocked shots before it became an official stat. The NBA began recognizing an All-Defensive Team starting in LaRusso's final season, 1968-69, and he made the second team.

LaRusso could score too. In 1962, with the Lakers, LaRusso lit up the Hawks for 50 points. He played in five All-Star Games and finished seventh in scoring in 1967-68 as a San Francisco Warrior. LaRusso was part of four Lakers teams that reached the NBA Finals, but he never claimed a ring. In fact, during Russo's career, the Celtics won every NBA title except one -- 1967, when Wilt Chamberlain's 76ers broke the trend.

3. Art Heyman

Getty Images 3. Art Heyman


Heyman was born in New York City and grew up in Nassau County. He starred at Oceanside High School, where college scouts from across the country came to visit. Heyman signed a letter of intent to play college basketball for North Carolina, but before moving down to Tobacco Road, he changed his commitment to rival Duke.

Heyman had a solid seven-year pro career. He averaged 13.0 points and 4.7 rebounds in the NBA and ABA, making the NBA All-Rookie First Team as a Knick and winning an ABA title with the Pittsburgh Pipers. But Heyman's legacy is that of a college superstar.

Although the details are sketchy, stories suggest Heyman was the original Duke villain. In a freshman game against UNC (freshmen were not allowed to play for varsity teams at the time), Heyman was attacked by the Tar Heels' Dieter Krause and needed five stitches. This was only a precursor for a varsity melee the following season that saw Heyman fight two UNC players: Larry Brown and Donnie Walsh, both of whom would become influential members of the basketball community for the next five decades. Brown, also a Jew from Long Island, was actually supposed to room with Heyman in Chapel Hill a year earlier. All three players were suspended for the rest of the ACC season.

Heyman was a third-team All-American as a sophomore and a second-team All-American as a junior. He finally reached first-team All-American honors as a senior in 1962-63 and earned National Player of the Year honors. The Blue Devils lost to Loyola (Illinois), the eventual champs, in the semifinals, but they knocked off Oregon State in the third-place game. Heyman won Final Four Most Outstanding Player even though his squad did not even reach the title game.

2. Amar'e Stoudemire

Facebook 2. Amar'e Stoudemire


When asked in 2010 if he could confirm his Jewish roots, Stoudemire said, "I think through history, I think we all are." This guy passed rabbinical school in five minutes.

But in all seriousness, Stoudemire has embraced Judaism, meeting with former Israeli President Shimon Peres, engaging with the Jewish community during his time in New York and getting a Jewish star tattoo. After retiring from the NBA this past offseason, he signed with Hapoel Jerusalem for two years.

Stoudemire's NBA accomplishments includes six All-Star Game appearances, an All-NBA First Team nod, four All-NBA Second Team inclusions and an NBA Rookie of the Year Award. In 14 seasons, he averaged 18.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks with the Suns, Knicks, Mavericks and Heat.

Is he a Jew? That's up for debate. He practices Judaism and identifies with the religion. Open your door for Amar'e on Passover. He makes the list.

1. Dolph Schayes

Wikipedia 1. Dolph Schayes


Schayes lived the textbook Jewish-American Dream life. The son of Romanian immigrants, Schayes was born in the Bronx in 1928 and grew up near Jerome Avenue. He led NYU to an NCAA runner-up finish as a 16-year-old freshman, graduating in 1948 at age 20 with a degree in aeronautical engineering. The local Knicks drafted Schayes fourth overall in the 1948 BAA Draft, but he opted instead to go to the NBL, where he had been selected by the Tri-Cities Blackhawks and immediately traded to the Syracuse Nationals.

Schayes played 16 seasons for the franchise, one in the NBL and the next 15 in the NBA (the BAA and NBL merged in 1949). The Nationals turned into the Philadelphia 76ers for Schayes' last season. Schayes made 12 All-Star teams, six All-NBA First Teams and six All-NBA Second Teams. He led the NBA in rebounding one season and was part of both the NBA's 25th and 50th Anniversary Teams. His No. 4 is retired by the 76ers.

Schayes is perhaps best remembered for leading the Nationals to a 1955 NBA title over the Fort Wayne Pistons in seven games. Schayes averaged 19.0 points and 11.9 rebounds in the series, which happened before the introduction of the NBA Finals MVP Award. Schayes finished his career averaging 18.5 points and 12.1 rebounds in his 15 NBA seasons.

Schayes' son, Danny, was First-Team All-Big East at Syracuse and played 16 NBA seaons, averaging 7.7 points and 5.0 rebounds. He could possibly have squeezed onto this list had it gone ten deep.

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