Israeli Golden State Warriors player Omri Casspi joins S.F. Chabad Rabbi Yosef Langer to light the menorah after the Warriors beat Dallas on the team's annual Jewish Heritage Night, Dec. 14, 2017 (Photo/Courtesy Golden State Warriors)
Israeli Golden State Warriors player Omri Casspi joins S.F. Chabad Rabbi Yosef Langer to light the menorah after the Warriors beat Dallas on the team's annual Jewish Heritage Night, Dec. 14, 2017 (Photo/Courtesy Golden State Warriors)

With Warriors Jewish Heritage Night coming up, a look back at the very first

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The Golden State Warriors will be holding their annual Jewish Heritage Night on Dec. 27 at Chase Center, and J. is a proud partner, along with Chabad of San Francisco and the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation. Get tickets at warriors.com/TheJ. It’s the first time we are partnering with the team on the event, but of course we’ve been covering it since the first-ever heritage night in March 2006, when the Warriors ranked last in their division and were not the recently minted NBA Champions that they are today.

At the time, then-staff writer Joe Eskenazi (now editor of Mission Local) did a dive into the history of Jews’ love for basketball — something borne out by the many mentions of Jewish amateur basketball teams, going back to 1911, in our own digitized archives.

In that first Jewish Heritage Night, the Warriors faced the Washington Wizards. It wasn’t an auspicious start to the event, though. It can’t be called a spoiler, 16 years later, to disclose that the Warriors lost, 116 to 98.

That inaugural event also marked the first Jewish Warriors T-shirt, with “Go Warriors” transliterated into Hebrew. Since then, there’s been a plethora of Jewish sports merch from the organization, including a menorah in 2018 that was later recalled for posing a fire hazard. (According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the glue adhering the orange basketball-shaped candleholders to the blue base could melt under the heat of a flame, “causing the candleholders and lit candles to fall off, posing fire and burn hazards,” we wrote at the time.)

This year, the Dec. 27 heritage game will be played against the Charlotte Hornets, and the freebie will be a new T-shirt designed for the event. (Past designs have included iterations of a Star of David and a Warriors logo mashup.) Musicians from Congregation Beth Am will perform the national anthem, and there will be Jewish basketball trivia opportunities for fans. “Rally Rabbi” Yosef Langer of S.F. Chabad will blow a shofar. And J. will have a booth with info and swag, so stop by. Get tickets here.

Now please enjoy this 2006 story.


From matzah balls to basketballs Warriors celebrate Jewish heritage

By Joe Eskenazi

Any discussion about great Jewish basketball players has to include Dolph Schayes and … and … Well, it’s got to include Dolph Schayes, that’s for sure.

While the post-Schayes landscape has been a bit bleak when it comes to 4 American Jewish superstar basketball players, one can’t ignore the seminal impact of Jews on organized professional basketball. In fact, even the local team, the Golden State Warriors, has nearly as much Jewish heritage as, say, Wesley Clark or John Kerry.

The team will be hosting Jewish Heritage Night on Monday, March 27 vs. the Washington Wizards.

The Philadelphia Warriors were founded by Eddie Gottlieb (Jewish) who also owned the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association, the SPHAS, a highly successful Jewish team in the old American Basketball League. When Gottlieb set up the Warriors, he later sold off the remnants of the SPHAS to Red Klotz (also Jewish, naturally) who turned them into the Washington Generals, the longtime patsies of the Harlem Globetrotters.

The Monday game will include Jewish music from ADAMA, dancing and a pre-game scrimmage featuring the Jewish Community High School and Kehillah Jewish High School. The first 500 people to buy the specially discounted tickets will also receive a T-shirt reading “Go Warriors” in Hebrew.

As of mid-March, the Warriors have moved several hundred of the Jewish heritage tickets, according to Ben Shapiro, the team’s vice president of ticket and premium sales, but he hopes to sell 600 or even 1,000.

“We were aware that the Giants had Jewish Heritage Night and we wanted to do something similar at a Warriors game,” he said.

Seats normally priced at $38 are selling at $32 (and that includes the shirt). While there are no Jewish players in the NBA right now (Schayes’ son, Danny, retired in 2000 after 18 extremely mediocre seasons), the league used to be nearly as Jewish as it is now African American.

“In the old days, basketball was a [ticket out] for Jews in the ghetto. You had the House of David Jewish barnstorming team, Abe Saperstein founding the Globetrotters and Nat Holman and Red Auerbach were the two most successful coaches in the NBA,” said Frank Winston, commissioner of the Northern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, a co-sponsor of the event.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.