Oscar “Ossie” B. Schectman made LIU a household name in the world of college basketball in the 1940s. A pioneer of the National Basketball Association, he scored the very first basket in NBA history.
On Thursday, May 16, at its commencement ceremonies at Barclays Center, LIU Brooklyn will honor Schectman for his achievements on and off the court with its Distinguished Alumnus Award.
The college star began his playing career at Samuel J. Tilden High School in Brooklyn. Later, playing guard and forward for legendary coach Clair Bee, Schectman helped lead LIU Brooklyn’s undefeated 1939 NIT national championship team. In 1941, he was named a Converse first-team All-American.
Schectman graduated from LIU with a bachelor’s degree, before joining the Philadelphia Sphas (the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) in the American Basketball League. The Sphas won the league championship in his second season, with Schectman finishing second in the league in scoring. He remained with the Sphas until 1946 before joining a new league called the Basketball Association of America.
On Nov. 1, 1946, in the opening game of the fledgling BAA, Schectman sank the opening basket for the New York Knickerbockers against the Toronto Huskies. He and his teammates went on to win the game, 68–66, and finish the season with a 33–27 record. In 1949, the BAA became the NBA, with league officials acknowledging that Schectman's shot was the first basket in the NBA.
Among his many honors, Schectman is prominently featured in the documentary film “The First Basket,” about Jewish basketball history. He was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the Long Island University Athletic Hall of Fame. He is a member of the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame and is included in the Jewish Museum of Florida.
After his time on the court, Schectman enjoyed a successful career in business, working in sales for over three decades in Manhattan’s garment district.