A Historic First, a Gambling Mastermind, and a Hall of Famer: Meet Three Stuyvesant Ballers Who Made It to the NBA
Issue 15, Volume 111
By Krish Gupta
Stuyvesant isn’t necessarily known for its athletic ability. While many impressive athletes have come and gone, it’s a school more known for academics than for sending players to play at Division I schools. However, that’s not to say that there haven’t been any great athletes to come out of Stuy; a few have actually made it very far. There have been three Stuyvesant alumni who made it to the NBA, each of whom graduated in the mid-1900s and with unique careers. One, Nat Militzok (’41), had the first assist in the history of the NBA. Another, Jack Molinas (’49), was an NBA All-Star and third overall pick whose career was limited to one season after he was busted as the lead conspirator in one of the biggest scandals in NCAA history. The third, Charlie Scott (’67), was the real deal and an NBA champion, has an Olympic gold medal to his name, and is now in the Hall of Fame.
Here’s a look at each of their stories and careers:
Nat Militzok (Class of 1941)
Nathan Militzok, born in the Bronx on May 3, 1923, recalled that he started playing basketball to avoid getting into trouble. What started as an escape became a career. Militzok played forward for the Stuyvesant basketball team until he graduated in 1941.
Fresh out of high school, he attended the City College of New York (CCNY), where he spent his freshman year and began his college basketball career. His CCNY team attained a 16-1 record, but in order for Militzok to get a chance to play at the next level, he transferred to the bigger name Hofstra University. It wasn’t all smooth sailing from there as World War II erupted and Militzok enlisted in the navy. He was stationed in Ithaca, New York at Cornell University, where he joined the school’s basketball team.
Once World War II ended, Militzok, who went undrafted, joined the 1946 New York Knicks for his rookie season in the Basketball Association of America (BAA). (The BAA merged with the National Basketball League in 1949 to form the NBA we know and love today.) Militzok featured in the first NBA game in Knicks history and is credited with having the first assist in the history of the league.
After his rookie season with the Knicks, Militzok was traded to the Toronto Huskies in its only season of existence. Once the Huskies disbanded, Militzok joined the Scranton Miners, where he remained for three seasons. His final season was with the now defunct Saratoga Harlem Yankees.
Listed at 6’3” and 195 pounds, Militzok averaged 4.3 points per game and 0.7 assists per game in his 56-game career. The best performance of Militzok’s career was likely on March 13, 1947, when he scored a career-high 16 points and had six field goals.
After retiring from the NBA, Militzok was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. He was also inducted into the Hofstra University Athletics Hall of Fame after he graduated in 1949.
Militzok passed away on May 14, 2009 at 86 years old. As the first student to turn their Stuyvesant experience into a professional basketball career, he will not be forgotten.
Jack Molinas (Class of 1949)
Jacob L. Molinas, born on Halloween 1931, was raised in Brooklyn and attended Stuyvesant from 1945 until 1949. After graduating from high school and playing on the basketball team, Molinas went to Columbia University, where he was the captain of the men’s basketball team during the 1952-1953 season. He set a Columbia record at the time for points in a game in 1953.
Molinas was drafted third overall in the first round by the Fort Wayne Pistons in the 1953 NBA draft. Listed at 6’6” and 200 pounds, Molinas appeared in 32 NBA games, averaging 11.6 points, 7.1 total rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. He was also selected for the 1954 All-Star game. However, his career and legacy would be marred by some shady dealings. After 32 games, he was suspended for betting on Pistons games. He was banned from participating in the All-Star game and sued the NBA for $3 million. He would never appear in an NBA game again. Molinas only played in the NBA for one season as he was implicated in the 1961 point-shaving scandal.
Molinas was the mastermind of the NCAA’s 1961 point-shaving scandal, a gambling ring that went on from 1957 to 1960, involving 50 players from over two dozen colleges. Molinas bribed players to fix games during that span and roped in dozens of college basketball players around the country, including Hall of Famer Connie Hawkins. His actions resulted in the arrests of 37 college players. Molinas was blackballed from professional basketball and convicted in 1963, sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison. Molinas was even allegedly in cahoots with NYC mobster Thomas Eboli. Molinas was paroled in 1968 after serving five years, but in 1973, he was arrested and charged again, this time for the interstate shipment of pornography.
A New York Times article proclaimed Molinas as “probably the greatest fixer of basketball games in history, the Mephistopheles of college sports.” There was even a novel written about Molina’s “bent” nature, titled “The Wizard of Odds: How Jack Molinas Nearly Destroyed the Game of Basketball.” Another Times article declared that gambling was Molinas’s life. “Much of it sounds out of place from someone who qualified for Stuyvesant, one of the highest‐rated high schools in New York. He was also considered an excellent student at Columbia and became a successful lawyer.”
While Molinas was in the thick of his investigation for gang involvement, two hours past midnight on August 3, 1975, he was murdered in a gang-related incident. Eugene Connor fired five shots at Molinas while he was in his backyard. The alum was just 43.
Charlie Scott (Class of 1967)
Charlie Scott was undoubtedly the most successful Stuyvesant alum in the NBA. Born on December 15, 1948, Scott grew up in Harlem. The 6’5” guard attended Stuyvesant for one year before transferring to Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina.
“I went to a school called Stuyvesant in New York City,” Scott said in an interview with NBA.com, the official website of the National Basketball Association. “I was one of the top AAU players in New York City, and I went to try out for the [Stuyvesant] basketball team, and the coach would not let me try out because I was Black. Their team was 1 and 27. I made up my mind then that I was not going to let people hold me back anymore.”
After three years playing high school ball in North Carolina, Scott was recruited by the University of North Carolina (UNC), one of the best basketball programs in the country, as the first Black scholarship athlete in university history. The two-time All-American had a legendary college career as he averaged a stat line of 22.1 points per game, including an incredible 27.1 points per game senior season. He led the Tar Heels to the Final Four in two consecutive years. During college, he was also selected by the Mexico 1968 men’s Olympic team, in which he helped the United States to a gold medal and was the team’s fourth highest scorer. One article from the Charlotte Observer proclaimed Scott as “the closest thing UNC ever had on a basketball court to Michael Jordan before Jordan himself arrived more than a decade later.”
In his professional rookie season with the ABA’s Virginia Squires, Scott averaged over 27 points per game and won ABA Rookie of the Year. In his sophomore season, he averaged 34.6 points per game, an ABA record. He was traded to the NBA’s Phoenix Suns in 1972 and was an All-Star in all three of his seasons in Phoenix. He was then traded again, this time to the Boston Celtics. Scott reached the pinnacle of the basketball world as his Celtics won the NBA Finals in the 1975-1976 season.
After two more seasons with the Celts, Scott rounded off his career with the Lakers and the Suns. Upon retiring in 1980, Scott finished his career with a 20.7 points per game average. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018.
Even more than his playing legacy, Scott paved the way for future generations of Black players at UNC, contributing to building one of the best college basketball programs the country has seen. In an interview in April of this year, Scott said, “I look at football, I look at basketball, and I think of course there should be more coaches [who] are Black. Because there are so many Black players in the sport itself. I know for one thing that, especially with today’s athlete, there’s got to be a communication of understanding amongst each other, especially with what is going on in our society today.”
However, being an activist player in the 1950s wasn’t smiled upon, so Scott had to keep his head down and play. “I hope I would’ve been more like a LeBron James-type of character,” Scott said. “I think his social standards and his social stance, I applaud very much. I would hope I would have those types of standards.”
Scott didn’t leave no impact though. As the first Black scholarship athlete in UNC history, he truly blazed a trail, including one for the GOAT Jordan, who entered UNC a decade after Scott graduated. Scott earned the fittingly named Tar Heel Trailblazer Award at a game in 2014. This year, UNC was in the news again as it just hired its first Black head coach in university history, Hubert Davis, to replace longtime legendary coach Roy Williams. Who was the first person Davis called after his introductory press conference? Scott.
Now, Scott is 72 years old and lives around Atlanta, Georgia. He even had a book written about his glass-shattering legacy, titled “Game Changers: Dean Smith, Charlie Scott, and the Era That Transformed a Southern College Town.”
The final words of Scott’s Hall of Fame induction speech perhaps put it best: “I am very proud to be an alumnus of the University of North Carolina. But more importantly, I am very proud to be standing up here as a Black man [who] took a path that wasn’t easy but was the right path to take.”