Lewis played at New York University in the late 1930s, and is considered to have been one of the best players in school history. A 1939 All-America, he captained the Violets the following year to a record of 18-1, with an 18-game winning streak.
Birth and Death Dates:
Lewis is a member of the NYU Athletic Hall of Fame, and was one of the school's best players in the first half of the twentieth century. In 1938, he joined seniors Irwin Witty and Si Boardman as a sophomore guard. A backup during the regular season, he finished fifth on the team in scoring with 116 points. NYU finished the year 15-6 and claimed the mythical Metropolitan championship.
On the strength of their record, the Violets played in the first-ever national postseason national tournament called the NIT (National Invitation Tournament). In the first round of the six-team tournament, NYU played LIU (Long Island University) and Lewis was inserted into the starting line-up for the first time in his career. Under the pressure of the elimination tournament, Lewis was outstanding as the game’s high scorer with 11 points and NYU defeated the Blackbirds, 39-37. The New York Evening Post praised Lewis’ play and wrote, “…[he] proved once again, as he had many times in the past, that he must take a back seat to none of his teammates…his eleven points in the contest do not begin to tell the story of his part in the victory…he retrieved the ball off his foes’ backboard and off his own more times than anyone [on NYU].” (March 11, 1938)
After defeating LIU, the Violets advanced to the semifinals where they played Colorado, led by future Supreme Court Justice Byron "Whizzer" White. Lewis, who remained in the starting line-up, scored only five points but was NYU's main ball-handler in one of the most exciting contests of the 1938 season. In the final 40 seconds of the game, the lead changed hands three times, but White scored the deciding basket with only seconds remaining as Colorado defeated Lewis and NYU, 48-47. In the consolation game, NYU was obviously still exhausted from the battle with Colorado and lost 37-24 to Oklahoma A&M to finish fourth overall as Lewis scored only two points in the game.
The following year (1939), Lewis became a star for NYU and was joined on the team by sophomore guard Ben Auerbach. Lewis was named Madison Square Garden second team All-America as he led the team and Metropolitan area in scoring with 220 points. Unfortunately for NYU, Lewis’ brilliant play was not enough to overcome the loss of three starters from the previous year’s team (including Witty and Boardman) and the team finished a disappointing 11-11.
In 1940, his senior season, Lewis was captain of the Violets and along with Auerbach and sophomore guard Ralph Kaplowitz, led NYU to one of the school's greatest seasons. The Violets won their first 18 games of the year and were ranked the top team in the land by Newsweek entering the season finale with rival CCNY (City College of New York). In that game, NYU lost 36-24 in one of the biggest upsets in the history of New York City basketball (CCNY was 7-8 entering the game) as Lewis was held to only four points. Despite the loss, Lewis, who was named All-Met for the third consecutive season while scoring 152 points (third on the team), and his teammates were still considered one of the nation's best teams (there were no official polls until the late 1940s) and figured to play a prominent role in the postseason tournaments. Only days after their loss to CCNY, however, they were denied a chance at the national championship when the NYU Athletic Board declined all bids to postseason tournaments; the board cited the team’s strenuous schedule and added pressure of the winning streak.
Lewis played forward at NYU from 1937-1940.
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)
Inside Sports Magazine: College Basketball, by Mike Douchant with Jim Nantz (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1997)
Ronald Encyclopedia of Basketball, edited by William G. Mokray (Ronald Press: 1962)
Spalding Basketball Guide, 1939-40, edited by Oswald Tower (New York: American Sports Publishing Co.)
New York Times, March 7, 1938
New York Times, March 15, 1938
New York Times, March 13, 1939
New York Times, March 6-7 and 11, 1940