Today, it is nearly impossible to talk about the best basketball players in America without acknowledging the accomplishments of incredibly talented black athletes like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant. A little more than a century ago, however, the game was completely dominated by white players playing on segregated courts and teams.
In Breaking Barriers: A History of Integration in Professional Basketball, Douglas Stark details the major moments that led to the sport opening its doors to black players. He charts the progress of integration from Bucky Lew—the first black professional basketball player in 1902—to the modern game played by athletes like Stephen Curry and LeBron James. Although Stark focuses on the official integration of basketball in the late 1940s, the story does not end there. Over the past 60-plus years, black athletes have continued to change the game of basketball in terms of style, social progress, and marketability.
Spanning the early 1900s to the present day, no other book features such a comprehensive examination of the key events and figures that led to the integration of professional basketball. In Breaking Barriers, these crucial steps in the history of the sport are placed within the larger context of American history, making this book an essential addition to the literature on sports and race in America.
Wartime Basketball tells the story of basketball's survival and development during World War II and how those years profoundly affected the game's growth after the war. Prior to World War II, basketball --- professional and collegiate -- was largely a regional game.
Among its many impacts on home-front life, the war forced pro and amateur leagues to contract and combine rosters to stay competitive. At the same time, the U.S. military created base teams made up of top players who found themselves in uniform. The war created the opportunity for players from different parts of the country to play with and against each other. As a result, a more consistent form of basketball began to take shape.
The rising popularity of the professional game led to the formation of the World Professional Basketball Tournament (WPBT) in 1939. The original March Madness, the WPBT was played in Chicago for ten years and allowed professional, amateur, barnstorming, and independent teams to compete in a round-robin tournament. The WPBT included all-black and integrated teams in the first instance where all-black teams could compete for a “world series of basketball” against white teams. Wartime Basketball describes how the WPBT paved the way for the National Basketball League to integrate in December 1942, five years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.
Weaving stories from the court into wartime and home-front culture like a finely threaded bounce pass, Wartime Basketball sheds light on important developments in the sport’s history that have been largely overlooked.
Praise for Wartime Basketball:
“I love this book. The narrative comes alive with the fascinating testimonies of those involved. Along the way, Douglas Stark traces the evolution of the game during those otherwise fearsome years. This is a must-have book for both the casual basketball fan as well as the devoted hoop-o-file.”
—Charlie Rosen, author of Perfectly Awful: The Philadelphia 76ers' Horrendous and Hilarious 1972-73 Season.
In this oral history collection, Douglas Stark chronicles Jewish basketball throughout the twentieth century in the words of those who played it. From the early days with Nat Holman and Moe Spahn to post World War II with Dolph Schayes and Max Zaslofsky, When Basketball Was Jewish focuses on the role of Jews in basketball as no previous book has, illuminating their contributions to American Jewish history as well as basketball history.
In the 2015–16 NBA season, the Jewish presence in the league was largely confined to Adam Silver, the commissioner; David Blatt, the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers; and Omri Casspi, a player on the Sacramento Kings. Basketball, however, was once referred to as a Jewish sport. Shortly after the game was invented at the end of the nineteenth century, it spread throughout the country and became particularly popular among Jewish immigrant children in northeastern cities because it could easily be played in an urban setting. Many of the early stars were Jewish, including Shikey Gotthoffer, Sonny Hertzberg, Nat Holman, Red Klotz, Dolph Schayes, Moe Spahn, and Max Zaslofsky.
In this oral history collection, Douglas Stark chronicles Jewish basketball throughout the twentieth century, focusing on 1900 to 1960. As told by the prominent voices of twenty people who played, coached, and refereed it, these conversations shed light on what it means to be a Jew and on how the game evolved from its humble origins to the sport enjoyed worldwide by billions of fans today. The game’s development, changes in style, rise in popularity, and national emergence after World War II are narrated by these players reliving their youth, when basketball was a game they played for the love of it.
When Basketball Was Jewish reveals, as no previous book has, the evolving role of Jews in basketball, illuminating their contributions to American Jewish history as well as basketball history.
Praise for When Basketball Was Jewish:
“A terrific first person account of basketball life. As I read the stories of people I knew like Nat Holman and of course my dad, Dolph Schayes, I found myself living the stories of their time in the game. Their accounts are so real and dynamic that the game comes to life as you feel like you are experiencing it with them. A terrific read!”
— Danny Schayes, eighteen-year NBA player and son of Hall of Fame and NBA top fifty player Dolph Schayes
“The players and coaches chronicled in this book are not only important figures in Jewish basketball history; they played an important part in the history of the game. As a student of the game, a basketball lifer, and someone who is extremely proud of his Jewish heritage, I can appreciate the doors that they opened and I’m glad that their stories are being told.”
— Ernie Grunfeld, president of the Washington Wizards
Founded in 1918, the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association’s basketball team, known as the SPHAS, was a top squad in the American Basketball League — capturing seven championships in thirteen season — until it disbanded in 1959.
“In my time, I got involved in lots of things, lots of them. But the SPHAS, that’s what I loved.”
—Eddie Gottlieb, SPHAS Team Owner
In The SPHAS, the first book to chronicle the history of this team and its numerous achievements, Douglas Stark uses rare and noteworthy images of players and memorabilia as well as interviews and anecdotes to recall how players like Inky Lautman, Cy Kaselman, and Shikey Gotthoffer fought racial stereotypes of weakness and inferiority while spreading the game’s popularity. Team owner Eddie Gottlieb and Temple University coach Harry Litwack, among others profiled here, began their remarkable careers with the SPHAS.
Stark explores the significance of basketball to the Jewish community during the game’s early years, when Jewish players dominated the sport and a distinct American Jewish identity was on the rise. At a time when basketball teams were split along ethnic lines, the SPHAS represented the Philadelphia Jewish community. The SPHAS is an inspiring and heartfelt tale of the team on and off the court.
“It was the pinnacle of athletic achievement just to be able to wear that jersey with those four Hebrew letters on it. The money meant nothing. The goal, the fulfillment, was to play for the greatest basketball team in the world, the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association.”
— Yock Welsh
“If you could play basketball, your dream was to play for the SPHAS. Your life would be fulfilled.”
— Ed Lerner
Praise for The SPHAS:
“Douglas Stark chronicles some amazing facts about the game of basketball. It is almost inconceivable today, but basketball in its infancy was a ‘Jewish’ game. The SPHAS is a great read for every basketball fan who cares about the origins and history of the game.”
—Governor Ed Rendell
“For three decades, the Philadelphia SPHAS were one of the most important professional basketball teams in America, yet today almost no one knows their name. Hopefully, Douglas Stark’s book, The SPHAS, will change that. With encyclopedic detail, Stark traces the SPHAS’ unique role as an all-Jewish team that survived anti-Semitism, the Great Depression, and a world war to leave a lasting legacy in American sport.”
—Ben Green, author of Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters
“Douglas Stark has made a valuable contribution in bringing back to life a vibrant era in early basketball history. His portraits of the players, their fans, and such memorable figures as team founder Eddie Gottlieb and announcer Dave Zinkoff will entertain and instruct lovers of not only basketball but also American urban history.”
—Lee Lowenfish, author of Branch Rickey: Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman
Industry Praise for The SPHAS:
“Steeped in well-researched detail, The SPHAS helps resurrect the memory of a team that represented a nation and dominated a game.”
“[A]n extremely well-researched book, one that captures in detail a bygone era, and belongs on the bookshelf of anyone with an interest in basketball history.”
— Providence Journal
“The team’s interesting history, now well chronicled by Douglas Stark…stretched from its founding in 1918 until its demise in 1959…. Sports fans will enjoy Stark’s volume, particularly its biographies of the SPHAs players.”
—The Jewish Book World
“The SPHAS documents the story in more detail than anyone has done before…. Stark’s book includes rare and vivid photographs of players as he describes how these Jews fought stereotypes of Jewish weakness and inferiority while spreading the popularity of what was then a relatively new game.”
—The Broad Street Review
During the 1930, the Philadelphia SPHAs (South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) was a dominant professional team. Shikey Gotthoffer emerged as the team's best player. In his ten years with the team, he won five championships and two Most Valuable Player awards.
Shaky Gotthoffer, a story by Douglas Stark and Lance Gotthoffer, is a children's picture book with illustrations by Thomas Block.
The birth of American tournament tennis began in 1881 when the Newport Casino hosted the first U.S. National Singles Championship (forerunner of the US Open) and annually thereafter until 1915. Tournament tennis has been played at Newport ever since.
A National Historic Landmark, the Newport Casino today houses the world’s most complete museum devoted to the sport of tennis and the history of the building. In addition, the site hosts the opening nights of the Newport Folk Festival and Jazz Festival, is home to the recently renovated Casino Theatre, has a court tennis facility, and serves as a destination for visitors worldwide.
Tennis and the Newport Casino is a collaborative effort of the museum staff at the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum. Douglas Stark is the museum director, Nicole Markham is curator of collections, Troy Gowen is senior archivist/curator of new technology, Joanie Agler is coordinator of the Information Research Center, and Reneé Walker-Tuttle is manager of visitor services.
Notable Press Coverage for Tennis and the Newport Casino
Copyright © 2019 Douglas Stark - All Rights Reserved.