SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes, a 12-time All-Star who refined the big man's role in the infancy of the National Basketball Association, has died. He was 87.
Schayes was diagnosed with terminal cancer six months ago and died Thursday after being stricken with a severe infection, his son Danny Schayes said.
Dolph Schayes was the franchise player for the old Syracuse Nationals from 1948-1963 and was voted one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. He revolutionized the post position, always in perpetual motion instead of just planting himself in the paint.
As a 16-year-old freshman center, Schayes led New York University to the NCAA Final Four. He played his entire 16-season career with the Syracuse franchise, scoring 18,438 points and snaring 11,256 rebounds from 1949-64.
The 6-foot-8 Schayes was a seminal figure in the game. With a deadly two-handed, high-arcing set shot that he stubbornly used well into the era of the jump shot, he helped redefine the big man in the NBA.
"Dolph Schayes was one of the most influential figures in NBA history," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "He helped the NBA grow from its earliest days, emerging as one of the game's first stars and displaying the kind of passion for competition and commitment to excellence that has come to define our league."
Schayes grew up in the Bronx during the Great Depression and delivered laundry for cash. He honed his game in the schoolyards of Junior High 79 and DeWitt Clinton High School.
"When we played basketball I did everything. I passed, I dribbled, I played outside," said Schayes, who was 6-5 at age 11.
The New York Knicks chose Schayes fourth in the 1948 Basketball Association of America draft and the Tri-Cities Blackhawks picked him first in the National Basketball League before trading his rights to Syracuse.
After winning NBA rookie of the year honors in 1949, Schayes led the Nationals in scoring for 12 straight seasons and helped lead the team to its lone NBA title in 1955, becoming the first player in NBA history to score 15,000 points.
"Dolph is a legendary figure in Syracuse," said Jim Boeheim, longtime coach of the Syracuse Orange. "He was an all-time great, great player. His camp had a big influence on me."
When the Nationals moved to Philadelphia in 1963, Schayes was named player-coach of the 76ers. He retired as a player after the season, but stayed on as coach for three more seasons and was named NBA coach of the year in 1966 with Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer and Billy Cunningham.
From 1966-70, Schayes was supervisor of NBA referees and went into real estate in his adopted hometown of Syracuse after retiring. He was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1972 and also was a member of the U.S. National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
The "NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team" poster features Schayes, along with Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, John Havlicek, and Magic Johnson.
Schayes is survived by his wife, four children, and nine grandchildren. A funeral is scheduled for Monday.