Release date:October 29, 2008
(NY; LA release: Nov. 14)
When Ossie Schectman, a Jewish kid from Brooklyn, made the first basket for the New York Knickerbockers back in 1946, who knew it was the precursor of today's NBA? For Jewish immigrants, especially youth, sports played an important role in helping them assimilate. By the 1920s, almost all urban Jewish neighborhoods had a basketball team. When these teams evolved into professional leagues by the late 1940s, Jewish players and coaches led the way. Though basketball was invented by Dr. James Naismith in Springfield MA, the game spread like wildfire through turn-of-the-century New York settlement houses and proved a perfect fit for urban Jewish kids. By the 1920s, basketball had become a staple of life in American Jewish communities, and many of the top teams grew out of these neighborhoods. The First Basket is the first comprehensive documentary to examine both the role that Jewish players had in the evolution of the game and the impact that basketball played in the assimilation of American Jews. The First Basket explores the profound influence that these Jewish pioneers had on the evolution of basketball as it grew from a game played with ash cans on tenement steps to the second most popular sport in the world. In "The First Basket," writer/producer/director David Vyorst and narrator Peter Riegert explore the little-known, yet very important, Jewish history of the game. Chock full of vivid anecdotes and distinctive characters, the film brings back famous as well as unsung basketball legends such as Red Auerbach, Red Holzman, Dolph Schayes, Red Sarachek, Barney Sedran, Eddie Gottleib, Abe Saperstein, Ossie Schectman (that above-mentioned kid from New York who scored the eponymous First Basket), Ralph Kaplowitz, Sammy Kaplan and many more. These legendary players of professional basketball became role models and heroes to generations of fans and changed the face and perception, to this very day, of Jews in all athletics.