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Movie Review: The First Basket

Alternate Title: Jewish Hoop Dreams

Story: Names like Ossie Schectman, Sonny Hertzberg, Leo "Ace" Gotlieb, Ralph Kaplowitz and Hank Rosenstein do not immediately come to mind when one thinks of professional basketball. This focused documentary about the role of Jews in the development of basketball as a national fixation was lovingly directed by David Vyorst and narrated by the very familiar voice of Peter Riegert.

Yes, Canadian James Naismith invented the game of basketball at a 'Y' in Massachusetts in 1891 but it became the blockbuster moneymaker it is today because of what happened in its development in NYC. Young, urban Jewish boys living in the Lower East Side started to play this rough and tumble game in schoolyards and settlement houses and found this tougher image enabled them to assimilate quicker into American society.

The film documents the early days of the sport where players were all free agents and played for any team on any given day. Eventually a few teams were formed and before you knew it the seminal idea of this competitive money making sport began. The Jewish players who got their start in school yards were now in the big league BAA (forerunner to the NBA) and the first basket ever made in the fledging league was made by Ossie Schectman, 61 years ago. Who knew?

The film covers the popularity of the sport in NYC colleges including CCNY, LIU and NYU. The college basketball point shaving scandals of the 1950's ruined much and the sport took a long while to recover (this time without its Jewish stars).

If you are a basketball fan check out this interesting piece of Americana and hear from such luminaries as Nat Holman, Sammy Kaplan, Barney Sedran, Nat Krinsky, Red Saracheck, Red Holzman, and Red Auerbach.

Watch the two trailers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqQLYDkoQEM


Acting: Lots of talking basketball heads.

Trivia: David Vyorst, is a communications specialist living in D.C. Previously, Mr. Vyorst directed Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide’s Internet media department. His political experience includes two presidential campaigns, work on Capitol Hill, and public opinion research. As a lifetime New York Knick fan and film enthusiast, Mr. Vyorst brings his personal enthusiasm and love of the game to The First Basket.

Predilection: I like documentaries

Critters: None

Visual Art: Some very interesting archival footage both in print and film.

Theater Audience: Five other people. One woman told us all that her Father was on one of the winning CCNY teams in the 40's.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: Anti-semitism is squirmy.

Drift Factor: It was not long enough to drift.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: No

Big Screen or Rental: Either would be fine.

Length: 90 minutes