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When Syracuse Ruled the NBA, Remembering the Nats

Free with admission
May 13, 2023

Don’t let the grainy black-and-white footage fool you. The Syracuse Nationals could play.

Dolph Schayes, star of the Nats, would be dropping 3-pointers and dunking on Joel Embid in today’s NBA. The Nats played, in a brutal and entertaining style, before rowdy fans in Syracuse from 1946 to 1963. They ruled the NBA as champions in 1955, winning the title in a comeback victory at Onondaga War Memorial. Many in Central New York lament the day, May 16, 1963, when the Nats departed Syracuse to become the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Nats, gone 60 years, still matter.

Sean Kirst and David Ramsey have written books about the Nats. The authors, friends for more than 30 years, will bring the Syracuse Nationals back to life, and back to gleaming color.

Following the presentation there will be a docent-led tour of Hoop Dreams: Basketball & Contemporary Art.

David Ramsey

david ramseyDavid Ramsey is the author of The Nats: A Team, A City, An Era. The Story of Professional Basketball in Syracuse, 1946 to 1963. The most enduring blessing of the book were friendships with Nats greats Dolph Schayes, Paul Seymour, Larry Costello, Johnny Kerr, Al Cervi, Billy Kenville, Earl Lloyd, Alex Hannum, George Yardley, and others.

Ramsey covered Syracuse University sports and, later, theater, architecture, opera and the Syracuse Symphony during his varied 1985-2003 time with the Syracuse newspapers. He interviewed Jim Boeheim, coach of the Orange, and I.M. Pei, the architect/creator of the Everson Museum. He loved his time in Syracuse, even the cold winters spent shoveling the long driveway at his 1872 home.

After returning to his home state of Colorado in 2003, he reported from five continents and traveled to the Athens, Beijing, London, Sochi and Rio Olympics as columnist for the Colorado Springs Gazette. He’s freshly retired and married to Teresa. They live in Colorado Springs.

kirstSean Kirst

Sean Kirst is a journalist-in-residence at Le Moyne College and a columnist with The Buffalo News. He has been an Upstate journalist for more than 48 years. He is the recipient of many national and state journalism awards, including the Ernie Pyle Award, given annually to one American journalist for writing about the dreams and struggles of everyday people, and a national Sigma Delta Chi award for excellence in column writing.

Kirst, a TedX speaker, has given many talks about the importance of storytelling in journalism, especially in a digital age, and he is the author of three books: The Ashes of Lou Gehrig, The Soul of Central New York, and MoonFixer, written with Earl Lloyd – a basketball Hall of Famer from the old Syracuse Nationals, and the first African-American to set foot on the floor in the National Basketball Association. The England-based Tolkien Society credits Kirst with serving as founder of international Tolkien Reading Day, now celebrated around the world.

His interest in the rich basketball heritage of Syracuse – especially its critical role in the events that created the modern NBA – began with his arrival in Central New York more than 30 years ago, and continues today with his work in Buffalo. Kirst never forgets the belief of longtime basketball historian Bill Himmelman: Two essential moments shaped basketball, as we know it in 2023 – the day Dr. James Naismith nailed a peach basket to the wall, and the day the shot clock was used for the first time at the old Blodgett Vocational High School, in Syracuse.

Learn more about Hoop Dreams.