This March the Sixers will retire the number of Dolph Schayes, an honor long overdue.
The history of the Philadelphia 76ers can be seen as a series of players’ eras – interrupted unfortunately by a few mediocre or bad stretches. Before Allen Iverson, there was Charles Barkley. Before Barkley, there was Julius Erving – with some timely help from the late great Moses Malone. Before Erving, there was Wilt Chamberlain. And before Wilt, there was Dolph Schayes, who was player, player-coach and coach for the Syracuse Nationals and the successor Sixers.
Dolph Schayes, who passed away on December 10th at the age of 87, led the Syracuse Nats to the franchise’s first NBA title in 1955 in his 7th pro season. He was the team’s dominant force in his championship season, much as Wilt and Dr. J would be in theirs.
Dolph Schayes went to NYU and then played his entire NBA career for this franchise. It’s fair to say he was the face of the franchise throughout the 50’s and early 60’s.
Schayes, who was 6-foot-7, played forward and center. The numbers for his 16-year career are impressive. His scored 18.2 points per game and averaged 12.1 rebounds. He led the NBA in rebounding in 1950-51. In 1957 he set what was then a league record by making 18 free throws in a game (Wilt in 1962 would hit 28 in his 100-point game). Dolph Schayes was a 12-time all-star. He was voted to be among the NBA’s all-time best players on both the 25th and 50th anniversaries of the league.
Although his playing years were nearly all in Syracuse, Dolph Schayes was on the first Philadelphia 76ers team in 1963 as both player and coach. He remained as coach through the 1966 season before being replaced by Alex Hannum. In his last year as coach of the Sixers, they lost to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference final, four games to one, after a strong regular season. Would Schayes have gotten them to the championship in 1967, as Hannum did? There’s no way to know, but the Hall of Famer did build a strong contender in his three years as coach in Philadelphia. The plate was set for that second franchise championship. He spent more years in the Sixers’ organization before a stint as coach of Buffalo Braves from 1970 to 1972.
On March 12, the 76ers will retire his jersey in a ceremony honoring Dolph Schayes. It’s an honor richly deserved. He’d have enjoyed seeing it happen.