’50 Schayes Could Play

When Dolph Schayes jumped center in the NBA’s first game on November 3, 1949, he never could’ve imagined that his legacy would be known as the bridge to modern day basketball. He played 15 years in The Association, retiring in 1964, wearing the same Syracuse Nats #4 jersey he had worn back in ‘49–50.

NBA fans love to argue about “greatest team ever” and “golden eras”, and there is generally an assumption that it is impossible to do so because of the extreme development and evolution of the athletes, training and tactics. I’m really fortunate to have a son (12) who has rejuvenated my NBA fanaticism, and we were both deeply absorbed in the ESPN 30-for-30 masterpiece on the Celtic-Laker rivalry. He immediately started imagining Magic against LeBron, and the Celtics of ‘85–86 against the Warriors of today. He asked me about Julius and the Sixers and MJ and the Bulls, and how I thought those two favorite teams of mine would compete today.

Settling things the only way we know how, we found Statis Pro Basketball Cards online and let statistics guide us. Results showed amazing parity statistically, but I looked further for comparative data to help me understand the trajectory of the evolution. Surprisingly I found it in images, and in the names of some of the most legendary players. A clear lineage — a legacy — that begins with Dolph, and goes through today with Vinsanity. And this Fall when Carter and the Kings take on the Lakers, it will be passed on to Lonzo Ball who may carry the torch another 15 years.

The picture below says it all…..Dolph Schayes making his debut in 1949 and playing long enough to battle Wilt Chamberlain in 1964. Wilt in turn hung around to face Kareem Abdul Jabbar in 1973. Jabbar continued until he had faced Michael Jordan in 1988. MJ kept coming back until he squared off with Vince Carter in 2002. And Vince plays on……

Breaking it down, the NBA is a league that has (premature retirement dalliances aside) always had one of those five players playing — over a 70 year stretch. And we can believe that Dolph could dust off #4 and replace Pachulia on the world champs starting lineup.

I love this game……