“The Greatest Jewish Basketball Documentary Film in the World!”

New Documentary Explores History Of Jews and BasketballClick Here to Listen to Director David Vyorst on NPR’s “Tell Me More” with host Michelle Martin.

THE REVIEWS ARE IN – And the verdict is:

A “perception-altering new documentary”
-Gary Goldstein, The Los Angeles Times

“The First Basket is more than a triumphalist screw-you to those who think Jews don’t play sports. . .David Vyorst’s clear-eyed, jaunty documentary briskly walks us through the history of American Jews in basketball”
-Ella Taylor, The Village Voice

“An entertaining and informative sports doc that should find considerable exposure on cable channels after its theatrical run. . . its wonderful personal testimonies and wealth of archival footage provide a much needed sports history lesson.”
-Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

“An important historical document. . . engrossing and fun”
-Lewis Beale, Film Journal International

“comprehensive and entertaining . . .’The First Basket’ is a rare documentary that not only provides context…but also is fun to watch.”
-Peter Ephross, The Jewish Daily Forward


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The Los Angeles Times
Honoring Hebrew Hoopsters
Honoring Hebrew Hoopsters – download pdf
By Gary Goldstein

The Hollywood Reporter
Film Review: The First Basket
By Frank Scheck

The Village Voice
David Vyorst Tracks the Jewish Experience Through Basketball in The First Basket
By Ella Taylor

Film Journal International
Film Review: The First Basket – Jews played professional basketball, who knew?

By Lewis Beale

The Pulp Movies Trailer Park

The First Basket: Jews and Basketball

The New York Times
The First Basket: Immigrant Hoop Dreams
By Nathan Lee

The Jewish Daily Forward
Shooting Hoops: A Jewish History
By Peter Ephross

The New York Post
The First Basket
By Lou Lumenick

92Y Blog
From the Archives: Jumping Through Jewish Hoops

Moving Pictures Magazine
Calling the Shots on “The First Basket”
By David Vyorst

The Hollywood Reporter
Rockers, hoops on way
By Gregg Goldstein

New York Jewish Week
How The Jews ‘Invented’ Basketball
By Chuck Bennet
The Justice – Brandeis University Student Newspaper
FILM: Unveiling Jewish athletes’ lost past
By Charlie Gandelman
The Forward
Film Examines Court Jews Who Dominated Basketball
By Ethan Porter, Published November 26, 2004
Chicago Tribune
Lox, bagels and hoops
You think today’s pros carry the NBA? That’s nothing!
By Ron Grossman, Tribune staff reporter, Published July 16, 2003
Jewish Telegraph Agency
Film traces Jewish hoopsters, long before Magic or Michael
By Joe Berkofsky
Washington Jewish Week
Village Voice
David Vyorst was surprised to learn a few years ago that a Jewish guy, Knick Ossie Schectman, scored the first basket in the BAA, the precursor to the NBA. Now he’s using that first hoop in 1946 as the opening to his documentary film about Jews and basketball. Even though there have been exactly zero Jewish players in the NBA since Danny Schayes retired a few years ago, there’s a rich tradition for Vyorst to examine for his film, The First Basket, which is nearing completion.

Several of Schectman’s teammates were Jewish, as were many other players during the era of semi-professional basketball and the early years of the pro game. For Vyorst, a native of Long Island, basketball is more than just a game: “It’s part of the way the Jewish community became Americans.” After 1950-when the basketball color line was broken and Jews moved out to the suburbs in droves-the number of Jewish pro players declined. But in the pre-NBA days, one of the most successful teams was the SPHAs of the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association, which won several championships in the old American Basketball League of the ’30s and ’40s. It was a rough-and-tumble time. Players competed on two or three teams for $8 to $10 a game. Many Jewish players anglicized their names to avoid anti-Semitism. But the players Vyorst interviewed for the film, which he hopes to release next year, remember the era fondly. “Basketball was our religion,” says Hank Rosenstein, one of Schectman’s teammates. Jews also filled the lanes on “club squads”-the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and Macy’s both sponsored teams, Vyorst says. “If you live in a tenement on the Lower East Side,” he explains, “you’re not going to play polo.” – Peter Ephross