At one time the most dominant team in professional basketball, the Philadelphia SPHAS was organized as an amateur team in 1918 by Eddie Gottlieb, Harry Passon and Hughie Black shortly after their graduation from South Philadelphia High School.
Those three young men had one overpowering objective in life following their graduation…to study basketball. Their first step was to organize a semi-professional basketball team consisting entirely of Jewish players.
The fledgling, team’s first need was uniforms, which were underwritten by the YMHA. In 1921 the team broke away from the Y and began playing under the auspices of the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association, where it got the name it would carry for the next 31 years.
The team featured many of the eastern United States’ outstanding college graduates. From 1933-1946 they dominated the American Basketball League, winning seven league championships during those 13 seasons.
For four years prior to that, the team won three Eastern League Championships. Following World War II, in 1946, the Basketball Association of America, forerunner of the NBA, made its debut and the ABL ceased to be a major league. The Sphas continued to play in the minor league ABL until 1949.
The Sphas are prominently honored in the National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield Mass. And in the summer of 1997 will be inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame at Wingate Institute in Israel.