Ralph Kaplowitz, 89, Original Member of the Knicks

By Lana Gersten

Published February 11, 2009, issue of February 20, 2009.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Ralph Kaplowitz, an original member of the New York Knickerbockers who played in basketball’s first professional game in 1946, died at his home in the Floral Park section of Queens on February 2. He was 89.

According to his daughter, Barbara Kaplowitz, the cause of death was kidney failure. At the age of 27, Kaplowitz was invited to play with the Knickerbockers, better known as the Knicks. The team was then part of the Basketball Association of America, the predecessor to the National Basketball Association. The 6-foot-2-inch, 170-pound guard started in the league’s opening game against the Toronto Huskies. The Knicks, which was then composed of several Jewish players, beat the Huskies 68-66.

“Basketball during his era was really a predominantly Jewish game,” basketball historian Matt Zeysing said.

Even so, Kaplowitz and his fellow Jewish players were not immune to antisemitic taunts. “When they went out of town,” Barbara Kaplowitz said, “they got jeered.”

Born May 18, 1919, Ralph Kaplowitz grew up in the Bronx and spent his days playing basketball with his older brother, who was also an accomplished player. He was a basketball star at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, and then at New York University, before taking a leave for six years to join the Army. During World War II, he was a fighter pilot stationed in the Pacific; after the war, he returned to NYU, where he studied physical education.

Kaplowitz, who was traded to the Philadelphia Warriors in the middle of his first season as a professional player, helped his team win the NBA championship during the 1946–47 season. He retired from the professional sport in 1948. Kaplowitz then returned to New York, where he started a long career in the life insurance industry.

“He was a real gentleman. He never promoted himself or bragged about himself,” his daughter said. “He was loved by a lot of people.”

In October 2000, Kaplowitz was inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame.

He is survived by two daughters and one grandson. His wife of 65 years, Norma Kaplowitz, passed away last year.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.