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Mar 22, 2021

International Tennis Hall of Fame Museum director Doug Stark (The SPHAs: The Life and Times of Basketball's Greatest Jewish Team) joins this week's 'cast for an authoritative exploration of one of his first loves - pro basketball's pioneering Philadelphia SPHAs.
Originally organized in 1918 as a local amateur team by South Philadelphia High School grads Eddie Gottlieb, Harry Passon and Hughie Black - and acronymically named for their early uniform sponsors, the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association - the SPHAs rose from a regional amateur league power in the 1920s to become an early avatar for professional basketball dominance in the 1930s & 40s.
With home games played in the ballroom of Philly's Broadwood Hotel (replete with customary singles dances afterwards), the SPHAs became a sensation in the local Jewish social scene, and soon graduated (under the guidance of Gottlieb) to winning titles in various early pro hoops leagues like the Eastern League and Abe Saperstein's American Basketball League - while beating legendary teams like Boston's Original Celtics and New York's Renaissance Five along the way.  In the ABL alone, the SPHAs captured seven titles in their 13 years of play between 1933-45, and were runners-up twice.
In 1946, the NBA-forerunning Basketball Association of America debuted, and the ABL ceased to be a major league. With Gottlieb establishing the Philadelphia Warriors as his BAA franchise, the SPHAs continued with the minor league ABL and as a touring opponent of the Saperstein's barnstorming Harlem Globetrotters. Gottlieb sold the team in 1950 to former SPHAs star Red Klotz, who changed the name to the Washington Generals.
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