Dolph Schayes, Original Sixers Legend, Dies at 87

Schayes lost a six-month battle with cancer. He helped the franchise win its first NBA championship when it was still in Syracuse.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Dolph Schayes during the 1966 season. | Malcolm Emmons- USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Dolph Schayes during the 1966 season. | Malcolm Emmons- USA TODAY Sports

Dolph Schayes, who led the team that would later become the Philadelphia 76ers to its first NBA championship, has died. He was 87.

Schayes, a Bronx native who starred for NYU when the school was a basketball power, played for the Syracuse Nationals — a team that, after the 1963 season, moved to Philadelphia to become the 76ers. The Sixers claim three NBA titles, the first of which was in 1955 in Syracuse.

After the move, Schayes spent four seasons in Philadelphia — the first as player/coach, and several more as coach. He led the Sixers to 55 wins in his final season with the team, 1965-66, and was named NBA Coach of the Year. (He was fired after losing in the first round of the playoffs to Boston — yet another reason to hate the Celtics.) In recent years, he made occasional appearances at Sixers games despite his advanced age. He died of cancer.

He was known for his set shots, his running one-handers — with either hand — and for games where he scored a lot of points and grabbed a lot of rebounds. He ended his career with 18,438 points and 11,256 rebounds. He didn’t miss a game between February 1952 and December 1961. He was a 12-time All-Star, a Hall of Famer, and is on the NBA’s 25th and 50th anniversary teams.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dolph Schayes, a pioneer and iconic member of the Philadelphia 76ers organization and one of the greatest players ever to play the game of basketball,” Sixers Chief Executive Officer Scott O’Neil said in a statement. “Dolph was an integral part of the foundation on which this franchise was built – first in Syracuse and later in Philadelphia. He will be fondly remembered for the legacy he not only created on the court, but the way he represented the game off the court.”

Schayes’ son, Danny, also played in the NBA. He is survived by two sons (Danny and David) and two daughters (Debbie and Carrie) as well as a wife of 60 years, Naomi.

“Dolph Schayes was one of the most influential figures in NBA history,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a release. “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.”