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Joe Lapchick - Original Basketball Player and Coach


The finely sculpted bronze Joe Lapchick Character Award was brought to life in three-dimensional form by and boasts an extreme detail honoring and immortalizing one of the founding fathers of basketball. The 2008 inaugural Joe Lapchick Character Award trophy was established by The Joe Lapchick Committee which includes: Anthony Adorante, Gus Alfieri, Nick D'Agostino Jr., Mel Davis, Ken Liberman, Bob Livingston, George Raveling, Brian Russo, Dan Sacco, Michael Sacco, and John Warren. The Lapchick Award Committee commissioned Dreamcatcher Global and to design and create the custom awards trophy in the likeness of Joe Lapchick for their first of many annual events. This award is unique in that it represents the first trophy that gives recognition and brings long-due attention to people of character, leadership and social responsibility in college basketball. Coach Joe Lapchick is recognized posthumously for all of his lifetime achievements and devotion to basketball and for the positive influence he had on the players he coached and fellow coaches both at the college level and in the NBA. The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) also supports the award in honor of outstanding coaches who have provided honesty, integrity, and achievement throughout their college basketball coaching career.

Joseph Bohomiel Lapchick was born at the turn of the century (April 12, 1900) in Yonkers, New York to Czech immigrants. As a boy in Yonkers, New York, he helped his struggling family make ends meet by scrounging for coal near the railroad tracks. At age 12 the youngster started playing basketball around his neighborhood, wearing a uniform his mother had made for him. Like many youngsters of the era, he stopped going to school after the eighth grade. While working as a golf caddy and in a factory, the 15-year-old found he could make $5 to $10 per night playing for local basketball teams. At age 19 he was suiting up for four different touring teams and pocketing up to $100 per game. "I played one manager against the other," Lapchick said years later. "I bargained with the managers for every game. When there was a clash of dates, I took the best offer."

As a ten year-old in Yonkers a young Lapchick was introduced to a new game that had worked its way down from New England: basketball. Lapchick picked up a basketball for the first time just two decades after the game was invented. It wasn't more than 4 years later that he dropped out of High School in 1914, which was rather common in that era, and soon thereafter pursued basketball professionally. At a staggering 6'5", he was a valuable commodity at a time when a jump ball was held after every basket.

Joe Lapchick even surprisingly played basketball with the likes of Babe Ruth, in an era of bygone protective knee padding and basketballs that were "oversized lopsided and blackened by dirt and old age," said Lapchick in his own words, balls that wouldn't last for an entire game. He was the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of his time. When the height of an average professional basketball player might have been 5'8" or 5'9". At a time when team captains often agreed to unlimited personal fouls, so fans could see the stars play [thus, the necessity of knee pads]. At halftime in the dressing room, under the Madison Square Garden main floor, it was not uncommon for Lapchick to drink a Coke and smoke Lucky Strikes cigarettes while his players bummed smokes off of him. There was no game clock or electronic scoreboard yet. Some old basketball gyms still used a chalkboard and a scorer who rewrote numbers in chalk asthey were tallied. The official scorer at mid court was also often the timekeeper as well. It was his duty to fire a starter pistol at halftime and at end of the game.

A pioneer with the barnstorming Original Celtics out of New York. A basketball team that was actually the second incarnation of the New York Celtics who had disbanded during World War I. The Celtics joined the American Basketball League (ABL) in 1926 and won two straight titles. So dominant were Lapchick, Nat Holman, and the rest of the Celtics that the league insisted the team disband. It did, in 1928. Lapchick and two other former Celtics thenjoined the ClevelandRosenblums, a team owned by a department store magnate who had named the team after himself. With Lapchick starring at the pivot, the "Rosenblum Celtics" basketball team won two straight ABL titles. However, the Great Depression forced an end to the ABL in 1931.

Conditions were spartan in those times. When a large cut on Lapchick's wrist became infected with uniform dye, a teammate rubbed off the scab with a towel and doused the wound with whiskey. Luckily for Lapchick, the treatment worked.

First in many ways, Lapchick had the first sneaker contract with a company that eventually become known as Footlocker and he represented them throughout his life. In his time, Footlocker was known as the Kinney Shoe Corporation until 1974 when they formally adopted the Footlocker name. In the photo you can see canvas a pair of old basketball shoes with the name of Joe Lapchick on the ankle patch.

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