Many basketball fans may not realize how important a role Jewish players have played in the history of the sport, but a list of the 10 best Jewish players ever will likely include a surprising number of familiar names.
- Dolph Schayes. Considered by many to be the greatest Jewish basketball player, Schayes combined the shooting touch of a guard with the rebounding and toughness of a forward. Over a fourteen-year career (1949-1964), Schayes averaged eighteen points and twelve rebounds. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.
- Micky Berkowitz. As far Israeli basketball is concerned, no one looms larger than Micky Berkowitz. Despite receiving offers from NBA clubs, Berkowitz opted to stay in his native Israel, playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv. Beginning in 1971, Berkowitz lead Maccabi to nineteen national championships and one European League Championship.
- Tal Brody. A beloved figure in Isreal both on and off the court, Tal Brody teamed with Micky Berkowitz to bring Maccabi Tel Aviv to prominence in European League basketball. A sharpshooting guard with tremendous range, he is easily one of the best Jewish players of all time.
- Red Holzman. Better known as the coach of the New York Knicks championship teams of the 70’s, William “Red” Holzman distinguished himself as a player as well, winning an NBA title in 1951 with the Rochester Royals. In 1985, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
- Lennie Rosenbluth. Rosenbluth is best remembered as the leader of the North Carolina’s first NCAA Championship. In that game, Rosenbluth played a spectacular and gritty game against Kansas’ Wilt Chamberlain, scoring twenty points in a triple overtime thriller.
- Larry Brown. In addition to being of one of the most successful coaches in NBA history, Brown also had a solid pro career, playing five seasons in the ABA. He set an ABA record with 23 assists in a single game. He won an NBA Championship in 2004 as head coach the Detroit Pistons.
- Nancy Lieberman. Lieberman enjoys the dual distinction as not only of the greatest women basketball players, but she also easily among the great Jewish players to ever pick up a basketball. Before becoming a pioneer of the WNBA, earlier in her career she also played for the Washington Generals, the Harlem Globetrotter’s opponent. She was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996.
- Ernie Grunfeld. Born to Romanian parents, Grunfeld was a key player on the 1976 U.S. Olympic gold medal team. He played nine NBA seasons, distinguishing himself as a highly efficient scorer.
- Max "Marty" Friedman. One of the original pioneers of the game of basketball, Marty Friedman’s hard-nosed defensively minded game helped excite crowds and draw fans to the sport in the early twentieth century. One of the first and greatest Jewish players, Friedman is credited with expanding the game to European audiences organizing a big tournament in France during World War I.
- Jordan Farmar. As a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Farmar plays solid minutes off the bench as Derek Fisher’s primary backup. He was a member of the 2009 NBA Championship team. Farmar has said that while he doesn’t consider himself a religious person, he still takes pride in his Jewish background.
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