LaRusso, Rudy : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

LaRusso, Rudy

Rudolph Anton LaRusso

A member of the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame, LaRusso led Dartmouth College to Ivy League championships in both 1958 and 1959, and then became a four-time NBA All-Star with the Lakers and Warriors in the 1960s. Teaming with all-time greats Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, Rudy helped the Lakers reach four NBA Finals between 1962-1966, although they lost to the Boston Celtics each time. While in the NBA, LaRusso scored in double digits every season and almost averaged a double-double for his career (15.6 points and 9.4 rebounds). One of the greatest players in Dartmouth basketball history, LaRusso still holds school records for rebounds in a single-game (32), single-season (503), and career (1,239). He is also second in Ivy League history in career rebounds and third all-time in single-season rebounds.

The 12th overall pick in the 1959 NBA Draft, LaRusso was described by Neil Isaacs in All the Moves: A History of College Basketball, as the player who, "...personified the return of the Ivies to the mainstream of big-time basketball. He restored credibility to the whole league. The only thing elegant of his style was the way he could take complete command of a game when it counted...At 6'8", 220 pounds with intimidating moves at both ends of the court bred of his Brooklyn playground background, LaRusso was the picture of a contemporary professional player and stepped into the NBA without any loss of stature."

During his tenure with the Lakers in the 1960s, LaRusso was a key member of the squad and Laker coach Fred Schaus said of his Jewish player, "On our team, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West are our 'gunners,' those we rely on chiefly for point-scoring. By LaRusso is enough of a threat in this department so that our rivals are prevented from ganging up on Baylor and West...He's been one of our most important men right along...in shooting, rebounding, defense, and team play."

Birth and Death Dates:
b. November 11, 1937

Career Highlights:
LaRusso, whose mother was Jewish, grew up in Brooklyn and won All-City honors while at James Madison High School under the legendary Madison coach, Jammy Moskowitz. As a senior in 1955, Rudy played center and led Madison to the PSAL final against Jamaica (led by by All-City guard Alan Seiden. LaRusso scored 14 points in the game, but Seiden registered 31 as Jamaica topped Madison, 64-59.

After graduating from Madison, LaRusso received a scholarship from Dartmouth, where he was an outstanding player in the late 1950s and teamed with fellow All-Ivy Leaguer Chuck Kaufman to lead the Big Green to back-to-back Ivy League titles. In 1958, LaRusso was one of the most dominant players in the conference as he led the Ivy League with an amazing 251 rebounds, including a record 32 in a game against Brown -- his 17.92 rebounds per game is still an Ivy League record. Named first team All-Ivy League, LaRusso led Dartmouth (ranked as high as No. 18 in the AP poll that year) to the conference championship with a 11-3 record (22-5 overall), and into the NCAA tournament.

In the first round, LaRusso scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Dartmouth's 75-64 win over Connecticut. In the East Regional Semifinal, he had 13 points and a team-high 15 rebounds as they defeated Manhattan 79-62 to advance to the East Final. In that game, LaRusso registered his third consecutive double-double (game-highs of 19 points and 21 rebounds), but Temple (with Mel Brodsky) defeated the Big Green, 69-50. LaRusso, who averaged 18.7 points and 15.3 rebounds per game, was named to the All-East Regional team.

In 1959, his senior year, LaRusso repeated as the conference's top rebounder with 14.93 per game (209 in 14 games) and increased his scoring, finishing fourth in the conference with 19.4 points per game. Named first team All-Ivy League for the second consecutive season, he led Dartmouth back to the NCAA tournament after they tied Princeton for the Ivy League title (13-1) and then defeated the Tigers in a playoff, 69-68. In the first round of the East Region, the Big Green (22-6, 14-1 in conference) lost to Jerry West and West Virginia, 82-68. Rudy scored 12 points and added seven rebounds and two assists, but fouled out of the game.

After his stellar collegiate career at Dartmouth, Rudy continued his prowess on the hardcourt in the NBA. In 1959, he was drafted in the second round by the Minneapolis Lakers (12th overall pick). Over the next decade, LaRusso was consistently one of the best power forwards in the NBA. Known as a fine all-around team player who worked on rebounding and defense, he stepped into a starting role in his rookie season and averaged 13.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per game as the Lakers advanced to the Western Division Finals before being eliminated by the St. Louis Hawks. Following the 1959-60 season, the Lakers moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles.

Although known more for his rebounding, LaRusso was also an outstanding scorer, and in the final game of the 1961-62 season, he scored 50 points. That year, with Elgin Baylor called up by the armed services during the Berlin Crisis, Rudy stepped up and helped lead the Lakers to the Western Division title, scoring 17.2 points (19th in the league) and grabbing a career-high 10.4 rebounds per game (13th in the league). They advanced to the NBA Finals, but lost to the Boston Celtics (coached by Red Auerbach), 4-3. Game Seven of the Finals went to overtime after ending in regulation tied at 100. In the extra period, the Celtics outlasted LaRusso and his teammates by a score of 110-107 to capture the title.

Besides reaching the NBA Finals and scoring 50 points in a game, the 1962 season was a milestone year for LaRusso as he was named an All-Star for the first time. He would receive that honor three more times in his career (1963, 1966, 1969). Over the next four seasons, LaRusso and the Lakers returned to the NBA Finals three times (1963, 1965, and 1966), but lost to the Celtics each time. Teamed with Hall of Famers Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, LaRusso consistently averaged double-digits in scoring and close to ten rebounds per game.

In 1967-68, LaRusso moved to the San Francisco Warriors and scored a career-high 21.8 points per game (8th in the league). In the playoffs, the Warriors lost to the Lakers in the Western Finals (the Lakers then lost to the Celtics again in the NBA Finals). In 1968-69, LaRusso ended his glorious career by averaging 20.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. That year, he was named second team All-Defensive and played in his fourth All-Star game. Although he never won an NBA championship, LaRusso is one of the greatest Jewish players in NBA history, and is the last Laker power forward to be named an All-Star.

Origin:
Brooklyn, New York

Career Dates:
LaRusso played forward at Dartmouth, 1957-1959. He played in the NBA for the Minneapolis Lakers, 1959-60, the Los Angeles Lakers, 1960-1967, and the San Francisco Warriors, 1967-69.

Physical description:
6'7", 220 lbs.

Career Statistics:
In the NBA:
Games: 736
Points: 11,507
Points Per Game: 15.6

Field Goals Made: 4,102
Field Goals Attempted: 9,521
Field Goal Percentage: .431

Free Throws Made: 3,303
Free Throws Attempted: 4,308
Free Throw Percentage: .767

Rebounds: 6,936
Rebounds Per Game: 9.4
Assists: 1,556
Assists Per Game: 2.1

Personal Fouls: 2,553
Disqualifications: 72

NBA playoffs:
Games: 93
Points: 1,344
Points Per Game: 14.5

Field Goals Made: 467
Field Goals Attempted: 1,152
Field Goal Percentage: .405

Free Throws Made: 410
Free Throws Attempted: 546
Free Throw Percentage: .751

Rebounds: 779
Rebounds Per Game: 8.4
Assists: 194
Assists Per Game: 2.1

Personal Fouls: 366
Disqualifications: 13



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References:
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)
Ronald Encyclopedia of Basketball, edited by William G. Mokray (Ronald Press: 1962)
The Encyclopedia of the NCAA Basketball Tournament: The Complete Independent Guide to College Basketball's Championship Event, by Jim Savage (New York: Dell Publishing Group, 1990)
All the Moves: A History of College Basketball, by Neil Isaacs (Harper & Row, 1984)


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