The First Basket for Chanukah

This is from our Associate and friend, “Unusual Pairs” Producer David Vyorst, who also created! “The First Basket” is his first documentary film, about the Jewish social history of basketball. It’s a highly engaging and enlightening film, and I recommend it. What it shows is the resilience of cultures and minorities in difficult circumstances, the interesting merging of cultures through sports, and the ways in which the United States has offered unique opportunities to overcome barriers that are rife in other cultures in the world. Enjoy!

The Greatest Jewish Basketball Documentary in the World

is now available for Chanukah on DVD!!!


Order Today! On Sale Now!

A “perception-altering new documentary”
-Gary Goldstein, The Los Angeles Times

“The First Basket is more than a triumphalist screw-you to those who think Jews don’t play sports. . .David Vyorst’s clear-eyed, jaunty documentary briskly walks us through the history of American Jews in basketball”
-Ella Taylor, The Village Voice

The First Basket is the first feature length documentary to examine both the role that Jewish players had in the evolution of the game and the impact that basketball played in the assimilation of American Jews. The First Basket explores the profound influence that these Jewish pioneers had on the evolution of basketball as it grew from a game played with ash cans on tenement steps to the second most popular sport in the world.

Did you know that a Jewish kid from New York scored the first basket in the NBA?

When Ossie Schectman, a Jewish kid from Brooklyn , made the first basket for the New York Knickerbockers back in 1946, who knew it was the precursor of today’s NBA?

Though basketball was invented by Dr. James Naismith in Springfield MA , the game spread like wildfire through turn-of-the-century New York settlement houses and proved a perfect fit for urban Jewish kids. For Jewish immigrants, especially youth, sports played an important role in helping them become American. By the 1920s, basketball had become a staple of life in American Jewish communities, and many of the top teams grew out of these neighborhoods.

“An entertaining and informative sports doc that should find considerable exposure on cable channels after its theatrical run. . . its wonderful personal testimonies and wealth of archival footage provide a much needed sports history lesson.”
-Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

“An important historical document. . . engrossing and fun”
-Lewis Beale, Film Journal International

“comprehensive and entertaining . . .’The First Basket’ is a rare documentary that not only provides context…but also is fun to watch.”
-Peter Ephross, The Jewish Daily Forward

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In The First Basket , writer/producer/director David Vyorst and narrator Peter Riegert explore the little-known, yet very important, Jewish history of the game.  Chock full of vivid anecdotes and distinctive characters, the film brings back famous as well as unsung basketball legends such as Red Auerbach, Red Holzman, Dolph Schayes, Red Sarachek, Barney Sedran, Eddie Gottleib, Abe Saperstein, Ossie Schectman (that above-mentioned kid from New York who scored the eponymous First Basket), Ralph Kaplowitz, Sammy Kaplan and many more.  These legendary players of professional basketball became role models and heroes to generations of fans and changed the face and perception, to this very day, of Jews in all athletics.

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© Marc Gopin