A member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the CCNY (City College of New York) Athletic Hall of Fame, Spahn is considered one of the best basketball players of the 1930s and 1940s. After gaining All-America recognition in 1932 and 1933 while playing under the great Nat Holman at CCNY, Spahn turned professional and played for various teams in the American Basketball League, the top professional league in the East before the formation of the NBA. A doctor later in life, Spahn's son Steve Spahn was an All-Ivy League player while at Dartmouth College in the 1960s.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. May 3, 1912 - d. July 15, 1991
Spahn, a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, was one of the great players in the history of CCNY (City College of New York) basketball. In 1931, the rangy Spahn joined City's varsity team and immediately stepped into the starting lineup as a guard. The Beavers finished the season with a record of 12-4, with two of their losses coming to the powerful "Wonder Five" squad at St. John's University in Brooklyn (the "Wonder Five" went 68-4 over a three year span).
In 1932, Spahn returned to City as a junior and was joined on the starting five by sophomore center Moe Goldman. Along with senior captain Joe Davidoff, Spahn and Goldman led City College to a 16-1 record and the mythical Eastern championship. Spahn, who was described as a player who knew, "every trick of the game," was named All-Metropolitan first team at the end of the season (New York Evening Post, March 2, 1932).
In 1933, Spahn (as team captain) and Goldman returned to City (Davidoff had graduated) and both were named first team All-Metropolitan as the Beavers repeated as Eastern champions, finishing with a record of 13-1. Spahn, considered by many to be the best player in the New York City area, led City College in scoring with 127 points, which was also eighth overall in the Metropolitan area.
After leaving City College with his reputation as an all-time great solidified, Spahn moved on to the ABL (American Basketball League), the top professional league in the East during the 1930s and 1940s. Although actually semi-pro in nature, the ABL attracted the top college talent and during his career with the ABL Spahn was recognized as one one of the best players in the league. In his rookie season with the Jersey Reds, he made an immediate impact by leading the league in scoring (333 points and a 8.7 point per game average) for the 20-18 Reds.
After finishing fifth in the league in scoring in 1936 (250 points, 6.9 average), he finished fourth the following year (326 points, 9.1) and led Jersey to the championship. In the ABL, the seasons were split up so that the team finishing in first place in the first half of the season played the top team in the second half of the season in a championship playoff. That year, the Reds won the first half (14-4) and finished second in the second half (12-8). In the playoffs, they lost to the Philadelphia Sphas (winner of the second half), four games to three.
In 1938, Spahn had the best season of his career as he finished second in the league in scoring (363 points, 9.1) and was named MVP as he led the Reds to the championship, beating the New York Jewels, four games to two. The following year, Spahn was joined on the Reds by one of the greatest scorers in the history of the ABL, Phil Rabin. Rabin led the league in scoring for the third consecutive year, Spahn finished third (281 points, 8.8) and the two stars scored half their team's points on the season as they led Jersey to its third consecutive appearance in the ABL championship. In a rematch of the previous year's playoff, the Reds lost to the Jewels, two games to one.
Spahn remained in the league for four more seasons (he retired in 1943) and played on two more championship teams, including his second to last year in the league (1941-42) when he finished eighth in scoring (136 points, 6.8) for the Wilmington Bombers, who won the regular season to claim the ABL championship. Spahn played in 232 ABL games and finished as the fifth all-time leading scorer in ABL history with 1,902 points (8.2 average).
New York City
Spahn played at CCNY, 1932-1933. He then played in the ABL for the New Britain Jackaways (and Mules) in 1934-35, the Jersey Reds in 1935-1939, the New York Jewels in 1940-41, and the Wilmington Bombers in 1941-43.