Gottlieb, Eddie : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Gottlieb, Eddie

Known as "The Mogul," Gottlieb is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1918, Gottlieb, Chicky Passon, and Hughie Black, all recent high school graduates, organized an amateur team under the Young Men's Hebrew Association (which provided the uniforms). After the YMHA withdrew its sponsorship in 1921, they found a home at the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association. The social club provided uniforms with the acronym SPHAs across the chest in Hebrew letters. It was the name the team would be forever known as, the Philadelphia Sphas. The Sphas won league titles in the Philadelphia League, the Eastern League, and the American Basketball League, primarily with Jewish players (the team has been inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame). By the late 1940s, Gottlieb was involved with a new franchise, the Philadelphia Warriors of the BAA, and sold the Sphas to Red Klotz in 1950.

In 1946, Gottlieb helped establish the BAA, the forerunner of the NBA, and later served as chairman of the NBA Rules Committee for 25 years. He was the NBA's sole schedule maker for more than 30 years, and owned the San Francisco Warriors for 10 years. Eddie also helped organize overseas tours for the Harlem Globetrotters, and promoted professional doubleheaders. Upon his death, the New York Times wrote: "his mental powers were extraordinary and his memory almost faultless. He remembered the scores of games, the gate receipts, the atendance, and even the weather." The NBA's Rookie of the Year receives the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. Sept. 15, 1898 - d. Dec. 7, 1979

Career Highlights:
After founding the Philadelphia Sphas in the late 1910s, Gottlieb became the force behind the Sphas, one of the greatest teams in early history of professional basketball. Under Gottlieb's direction, and behind the play of great Jewish players such as Chicky Passon, and Davey Banks, the Sphas became a great barnstorming team, but also won three straight Philadelphia League titles from 1923-1925. Also in 1925-26, as part of a special series of games, the Sphas defeated both the Original Celtics and the New York Rens (both full teams have been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame) and were proclaimed world champions. The Sphas are considered one of the great early professional teams, along with the Celtics, Rens, and Globetrotters.

When the Philadelphia League folded in 1926, the Sphas barnstormed until they joined the Eastern Pro League and added Cy Kaselman -- they won three titles in four years (1929-1933) in the Eastern League before it too disbanded. After the Eastern League folded, Gottlieb revamped the Sphas and entered them in the newly-formed American Basketball League in 1933. In the early 1930s, Gottlieb built and promoted the club to bring out Jewish crowds and added stars Harry Litwack, Shikey Gotthoffer, and Moe Goldman. In the ABL, the Sphas were the dominate team and won 8 of 13 titles between 1933-1946. In the process, they had some of the greatest Jewish players in the history of the game playing for them.

In 1946, a new league called the Basketball Association of America was formed and the ABL ceased to be a major league. Gottlieb joined the new league as the coach of the Philadelphia Warriors and according to Leonard Koppett in his acclaimed history of the NBA's early years, 24 Seconds To Shoot: "Gottlieb soon emerged as the most important single acquisition of the new league ... the one man who had lifelong professional basketball experience and background." In that first season, Gottlieb led the Warriors to the NBA title, defeating the Max Zaslofsky-led Chicago Stags, four games to one in the NBA Finals!

Gottlieb was instrumental in merging the Basketball Association of America with the National Basketball League to form the National Basketball Association. He coached the Philadelphia Warriors from 1947-1955, and purchased the team in 1952. After selling the team in 1962, for a then-record price of $850,000, Eddie remained with the team as general manager when they became the San Francisco Warriors. He remained with the team until 1964. Besides the Basketball Hall of Fame, Gottlieb is also enshrined in the South Philadelphia School Sports Hall of Fame, the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Kiev, Ukraine

Career Dates:
Gottlieb played at the School of Pedagogy in 1916-1918. He played with the Philadelphia Sphas from 1918-1925.

Physical description:
5'8", 175 pounds

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Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)
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)
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