Lautman, Inky : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Lautman, Inky

Lautman was a star player for the Philadelphia Sphas in the 1930s and 1940s. In a 1972 Philadelphia Daily News article, he was recognized as one of the ten best players to ever have been born and raised in Philadelphia, a hotbed of American basketball. One of the most successful professional teams in the first half of the twentieth century, the Sphas (the nickname stood for the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) began as a barnstorming team in the early 1920s and joined the American Basketball League in 1933 (the ABL was the top pro league in the East until 1946). Lautman played with the Sphas for 10 seasons and helped the club win four ABL championships. They also played in two other championship games.

Birth and Death Dates:

Career Highlights:
One of the top scorers of his time, Lautman joined Eddie Gottlieb's Philadelphia Sphas in 1937 and was a key member of the Sphas during his career. In his first season with the team, Inky joined Shikey Gotthoffer, and Cy Kaselman and all three players finished among the league leaders in scoring. Lautman led the team and was third in the league with 359 points (an 8.6 average); however the Sphas finished 23-19 and missed the playoffs.

After another good scoring year in 1938-39 (first on the team and sixth in the league with 232 points), Inky helped lead the Sphas to the league championship in 1939-40. That year, he led the team in scoring for the third consecutive year (233 points, 7.1 average) as the Sphas finished in first place with a 20-13 record, then won the round-robin playoff.

In 1940-41, Lautman remained a top scorer (238 points, 7.7 average) and led the Sphas (16-16) to their second consecutive ABL title by defeating the Brooklyn Celtics in the championship, 3-1. Over the next two seasons, he played part-time while serving in the Armed Forces during World War II. Inky appeared in 14 games during the 1942-43 season, and the Sphas won the championship for the third time in four years.

Lautman returned to the Sphas full-time in 1943-44 and quickly reclaimed his place among the league's leading scorers, finishing seventh (193 points) and leading Philadelphia to the championship playoff series where they lost in seven games to Trenton. Over the next two years, Lautman remained in the top ten in scoring and led the Sphas back to the championship both seasons; they won the title in 1945, but lost in 1946.

Lautman’s final season with the Sphas was 1946-47, the same year the Basketball Association of America was formed. The BAA eventually became the game’s dominant professional league and renamed itself the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1949. Lautman played in all 31 games for the Sphas that final season; the team went 19-14, but lost in the playoffs. Lautman will be remembered as the sixth all-time scorer in ABL history with 1,867 points.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Career Dates:
Lautman played in the ABL for the Philadelphia Sphas from 1937-1947.

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encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
The Modern Encyclopedia of Basketball, edited by Zander Hollander (New York: Doubleday, 1979)