Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Jews and the NBA

Yes, of course it is true that Jews have been disproportionately awarded Nobel Prizes (I don't have one, it's true, but lots of Jews do.) And it's true that the 19th century saw seminal figures such as Marx, Freud, Kafka, and Mendelssohn have inordinate influence.  Jews are certainly important.

But often overlooked, even today after the Donald Sterling kerfuffle, is the seminal influence of Jews on pro basketball. Who remembers that the Commissioner was Maurice Podoloff? The Warriors owner was Eddie Gottlieb? That Red Auerbach was Jewish? Who remembers that, I ask you?

Who remembers that the Philadelphia Warriors began as the Philadelphia Sphas – South Philadelphia Hebrew Association basketball team? Who remembers that David Stern was the the league in-house lawyer before he became commish? Look what he did, after all. Guess what religion Adam Silver has to be, although I've never heard it mentioned – that's right, never heard it mentioned!

Back then, way back then, the college game had lots of Southern teams. Kentucky, even with Pat Riley against Texas Western – all white! But blacks were taking their place steadily in the less-established pro game, and Jews knew that discrimination was a bad thing. They also knew quality when they saw it, and they respected the game and the people who played it. And I'm not even mentioning Goose Tatum.

Pro basketball has led the way in so much or race relations, n'est-ce pas? When I wrote my acclaimed freshman essay at Harvard, “Mr. Basketball, or Why I Hate Bob Cousy,” (available on personal request), even then in 1959, I proffered Elgin Baylor as the next superstar, and didn't even think to mention that he was African-American. Of course, unconsciousness, c'est moi. But even so, there he was at the top of the heap in my mind (a Jewish mind, no?). I didn't see that among the many assets that Cousy had going for him in Johnny Most's mind and the editors of Sports Illustrated was his whiteness, but still. The league has been a model for good race “relations.”

So, I ask you, is it a coincidence that the NBA has been a model for race recognition, or race progressivity, and that it has such a Jewish heritage and presence, and I haven't given more than a hint of the Jewish influence, really. Red Holtzman, gotta be Jewish. Dolph Schayes, Lenny Rosenbluth, Wilt Chamberlain in the Borscht Belt. Sheldon Raiken. OK, maybe not Sheldon. Reds Sherr.

Why don't we hear more about that, that you can count on Adam Silver, after all, he's Jewish? Why don't we hear that? Is it because of the overreach of AIPAC? Or, maybe, I guess you gotta say, maybe because Donald Sterling appears to be Jewish? Yeah, maybe good to keep the whole Jewish thing on the low-down.

Well, at least we have to say, we haven't heard anything about Sterling the Jew. I look at Jabbar and Kevin Johnson lavishing praise on Adam Silver and I think, that's great. Matter of fact, do you think Kevin might be Jewish?

budd shenkin

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