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Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes dead at 87

Dolph Schayes became a star immediately with the Syracuse Nationals.NBA PHOTOS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Dolph Schayes became a star immediately with the Syracuse Nationals.

Dolph Schayes, the Hall of Fame center who was drafted by the Knicks but spent his legendary playing career with the Syracuse Nationals and Philadelphia 76ers, died Thursday after a long battle with cancer. He was 87.

“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. Dolph was an NBA champion, a Hall of Fame player and a distinguished NBA coach and executive, as well as a proud father who relished the success of his four children, including the NBA career of his son Danny. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Schayes family during this difficult time.”

Consider the greatest Jewish player in league history, Schayes was named to the NBA’s 25th and 50th anniversary teams. He was enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1973.

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.

Born in 1928, Schayes starred at DeWitt Clinton HS in the Bronx, and he led NYU to the NCAA Final as a 16-year-old. He also helped the Nats to their only NBA title in 1955.

“When we played basketball I did everything. I passed, I dribbled, I played outside,” said Schayes, who was 6-5 at age 11.

Despite being drafted fourth overall in 1948 by the Knicks of the Basketball Association of America, one of two rival leagues that later merged into the NBA, Schayes began his career in Syracuse because the Nats could pay him more.

“I figured out that $ 2,500 was a lot of money and professional basketball might not have a long life,” Schayes told the New York Times earlier this year. “So I figured I might as well take the best offer.”

Schayes was a 12-time All Star. He retired in 1964 as the league’s all-time leading scorer to that point with 19,249 points and played in more games (1,059) than any other player.

“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.”

Schayes later coached Wilt Chamberlain in Philadelphia and had a brief stint coaching the Buffalo Braves.

Danny Schayes played 18 seasons in the NBA after attending Syracuse.

A funeral is scheduled for Monday. 

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