Rudolph, a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, followed his father's footsteps (Harry Rudolph) as a referee, becoming an official at the age of 20. With charisma and personality, he symbolized NBA officiating to many basketball fans of the 1960s and 1970s, and was the first NBA referee in history of officiate 2,000 games.
Rudolph's control of a game and sense of humor is shown brilliantly by looking at the last game of the 1964 NBA Finals. During the heated contest, Wilt Chamberlain hit fellow 7-footer Clyde Lovellette of the Boston Celtics with a punch and Lovellette went down like a shot. Celtic coach Red Auerbach stormed onto the court and demanded that Wilt be thrown out of the game. Wilt told Red if he did not shut up, he'd be down on the floor with Clyde. Red countered with a great line, "Why don't you pick on somebody your own size." Rudolph topped Red's line by saying: "Red, do you have any other seven footers who'd like to volunteer?"
When asked about being vilified by fans, Mendy responded: "I don't let it bother me. That comes only with experience, but you eventually learn to shut out criticism during a game. You hear it, but you ignore it. Rabbit ears in this business can be fatal for an official." Many, including the late Earl Strom, feel that Mendy should be in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Hopefully, he soon will be.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. March 8, 1928 - d. July 1979
The son of Harry Rudolph, a prominent basketball referee and baseball umpire in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Mendy's interest in refereeing began while in high school, when he watched his father work. Soon his father, who worked at the local Jewish Community Center, broke Mendy in at the JCC and encouraged him to follow his dream. At the age of 20, Mendy passed the state licensing exams, became a referee, and began working games alongside his father in the Eastern League, one of the top semi-pro leagues outside of the NBA in the late 1940s and 1950s.
The father-son team remained together for 125 games in the Eastern League, in which Harry was also the president, before breaking up. Mendy then went solo in the Eastern League until 1953, when he impressed Eddie Gottlieb, coach and owner of the NBA's Philadelphia Warriors. Gottlieb then recommended Mendy to NBA commissioner Maurice Podoloff, who gave him a job. Mendy went on to referee in the NBA for 25 years, from 1953-1978.
In the 1961 NBA Finals, Mendy and partner Earl Strom refereed all seven games of the 1961 NBA Finals (Boston vs. St. Louis), the only time that has ever occurred in the history of the NBA. In 1969, Rudolph became the league's chief of referees, and was the first official to work 2,000 games (the historic game took place in February, 1975). He is a member of the Pennsylvania Basketball Hall of Fame.
Use links below to navigate through the basketball section of Jews In Sports.
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
The Official NBA Encyclopedia: Third Edition, edited by Jan Hubbard (New York: Doubleday, 2000)
The Modern Encyclopedia of Basketball, edited by Zander Hollander (New York: Doubleday, 1979)
New York Times, February 1, 1956