Ralph Kaplowitz

Ralph Kaplowitz
Personal information
Born (1919-05-18)May 18, 1919
Bronx, New York
Died February 2, 2009(2009-02-02) (aged 89)
Queens, New York
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Listed weight 170 lb (77 kg)
Career information
High school DeWitt Clinton (Bronx, New York)
College NYU
Playing career 1939–1951
Position Shooting guard
Number 5, 9
Career history
1939–1940 Jersey Reds
1945–1946 Philadelphia Sphas
1946–1947 New York Knicks
1947–1948 Philadelphia Warriors
1948–1950 Hartford Hurricanes
1950–1951 Bridgeport Roesslers
Career highlights and awards

Ralph Kaplowitz (May 18, 1919 – February 2, 2009) was an American basketball player. Kaplowitz played in the first two seasons of the Basketball Association of America (BAA), now known as the National Basketball Association (NBA), and was at the time of his death the oldest living person to have played for the New York Knicks.


Kaplowitz attended DeWitt Clinton High School and led his team to a PSAL championship. After graduating from Clinton, he attended New York University. He joined NYU's varsity team as a sophomore in 1939–40, was the team's second-leading scorer with 183 points, and was named to the Collier's Magazine All-America first team. In his junior year, Kaplowitz did lead NYU in scoring, and to a winning record of 13-6. At the start of his senior year he was named team captain, but was drafted into the U.S. Army as an aviation cadet. After his basketball career, Ralph went on to thrive in other athletics. He is noted as winning multiple club championships at Old Westbury Golf and Country Club.

Professional career

Philadelphia Sphas

After the end of World War II, Kaplowitz was released from the Army, and he returned to NYU to finish his degree in education. After that, he signed with the Philadelphia Sphas (South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) of the American Basketball League, and averaged 10.6 points per game in the latter end of the 1945–46 season, facing the Baltimore Bullets in the championship round, but losing.

New York Knicks

In August 1946, Kaplowitz received a telegram from the New York Knicks owner Ned Irish which read "Interested in having you play with New York professional basketball team next season. Please telephone me." Kaplowitz did join the Knicks, signing a one-year contract for $6,500.[1]

On November 1, 1946 in Toronto, Canada, the 27-year-old Kaplowitz appeared in the starting lineup of the very first game of NBA/BAA history, alongside fellow Knicks Ossie Schectman, Sonny Hertzberg, Jake Weber, and Leo Gottlieb. Together, they beat the Toronto Huskies 68-66.

Kaplowitz and his teammates, many of them Jews, recall an increased level of anti-Semitic heckling by fans at Madison Square Garden as the season progressed. Halfway through the season, the Knicks traded Kaplowitz to the Philadelphia Warriors, which were then coached and owned by Eddie Gottlieb. In a 1997 interview of the team, Hertzberg said that by the end of the 1946–47 season, he was only Jewish player left on the Knicks' roster, but even he was traded during the league's first off-season break.[1][2]

Philadelphia Warriors

Kaplowitz played the second half of the 1946–47 season for the Warriors, who Kaplowitz' former team the Knicks in the playoffs, and swept that series to advance to the Finals. Then, they beat Max Zaslofsky and the Chicago Stags (4-1 series) to claim the first BAA championship.

In the 1947–48 season, the Warriors advanced to the Finals again, but Kaplowitz was once again beaten by Baltimore, in the Bullets' first season as a BAA team. After losing this series, Kaplowitz retired from the BAA after only two seasons, returning once again to the ABL, where he would play two seasons for the Hartford Hurricanes and one for the Bridgeport Roesslers.

See also


  1. 1 2 Richman, Joe (June 5, 1997). "The Starting Five". All Things Considered. National Public Radio. Retrieved 2007-07-11.
  2. Maoz, Jason (June 27, 2007). "Court Jews: Pro Basketball's Forgotten History". The Jewish Press. Retrieved 2007-07-11.
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