Last NameSportCountryYear Inducted

Sport: Basketball
Inducted: 1996
Country: United States
Organized: 1918 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Disbanded: 1949

The SPHAs were organized in 1918 as an amateur team by Eddie Gottlieb (Naismith Hall of Fame and IJSHOF honoree), Harry Passon, and Hughie Black shortly after their high school graduation. Always a team of considerable prowess whether the competition was amateur or professional, from 1933 to 1946 the SPHAs were the most dominant team in the professional American Basketball League (ABL), capturing 7 league championships in 13 seasons.

Called the SPHAs because the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association bought the players uniforms, the team featured many eastern U.S. top college graduates, including Harry Litwack (IJSHOF honoree), Cy Kaselman, Davey Banks, Moe Goldman (ABL MVP 1937-38), Shikey Gotthoffer, Irv Torgoff, Red Wolfe, Max Posnack, and many others. All but a few SPHAs players were Jewish during the club' s many years of amateur and professional existence.

Originally an independent team sponsored by the Young Men's Hebrew Association (YMHA), the players found a new home in 1921 at the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association when the YMHA withdrew its sponsorship. Soon, their local skills earned them a spot in the Philadelphia League, where they won two consecutive championships, after which the League disbanded. The SPHAs then joined the Eastern League for 1925-26, but it went out of business that same season.

Refusing to keep his team idle, owner-coach Gottlieb, the consummate basketball entrepreneur, promoted a series of exhibition games against leading pro teams from New York's Metropolitan League and the new ABL, then in its first year of operation. When the SPHAs won five of six games, losing only to the ABL's top team, the Cleveland Rosenblums, Gottlieb arranged for best-of-three series against both the Original Celtics and the New York Rens (an all-Black team). The SPHAs defeated the fabled Celtics in three games, and the Rens twice by scores of 36-33 in overtime and 40-39. Within approximately six weeks, the minor league SPHAs had won 9 of 11 matches against the most celebrated teams in professional basketball.

When the Eastern League found new life in 1929, the SPHAs once again joined its ranks, winning three championships in four seasons. This success led to an invitation from the newly reorganized ABL, which had been dormant for two Depression years.

In 1933, the SPHAs were Eddie Gottlieb's ABL franchise entry. The team promptly captured three League championships in four years, eventually winning seven titles in 13 years (1933-34, 1935-36, 1936-37, 1939-40, 1940-41, 1942-43, 1944-45), and they were runners-up twice. The team's uniform tops featured a samach, pey, hey, aleph—Hebrew letters spelling SPHAs—and a Jewish star. In case opponents or spectators did not understand, the back of the team's road uniforms said "Hebrews"!

In 1946, following World War II, the Basketball Association of America, forerunner of the NBA, debuted, and the ABL ceased to be a major league. With Gottlieb establishing the Philadelphia Warriors as his BAA franchise, his SPHAs continued with the minor league ABL and as a touring opponent of the Harlem Globetrotters. Gottlieb sold the team in 1950 to former SPHAs star Red Klotz, who changed the name of the Globetrotters' regular opponents to the Washington Generals.

SPHAs Primary Players 1930-1946

1930-31 Champions

Heshie Forman, Lou Forman, Dave Gordon, Cy Kaselman, Harry Litwack, Babe Lyman, Chickie Passon, Louis "Reds" Sherr, Yock Welsh, Red Wolfe

1931-32 Champions

Solly Bertman, Max Posnack

1932-33 (lost playoffs)

Gil Fitch

1933-34 Champions

Ed Beron, Moe Goldman, Shikey Gotthofer, Louis "Inky" Lautman


Red Rosan

1935-36 Champions

No roster additions

1936-37 Champions

Jim Fox


Mike Bloom, Lou Dubin, Beno Resnick, Lou Wisner

1938-39 (runners-up)

Sol Miehoff, Petey Rosenberg

1939-40 Champions

Cy Boardman, Leo Gottlieb, Phil Rabin

1940-41 Champions

Lou Possner, Irv Torgoff, Butch Weintraub


Ossie Schectman, Chink Morganstein, Solomon "Butch" Schwartz, Eddie Gottlieb (one game at age 43)

1942-43 Champions

Irv Davis, Red Klotz

1943-44 (runners-up)

Dutch Garfinkel, Herb Knuppel, Paul Nowak, Jerry Fleishman, Moe Becker

1944-45 Champions

Art Hillhouse, Bernie Opper, Rader Twins—Howie and Lenny, Irv Rothenberg

1945-46 (last pro year)

Ralph Kaplowitz, Jules Kassner, George Sensky

NOTE: Names listed under each season are pri­mary players added to the roster that year. Core players played for many years, but some were in and out during the war years. Others, not mentioned, also played for the SPHAs.

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