Schectman wondered what the call was about. He had played one season for the New York Knickerbockers in 1946-47 in the Basketball Association of America, which would become the NBA. But it wasn't as if league officials had put in many calls since then to the man who recently had retired from being a fabric salesman.
Ricky Green of Utah had scored on Jan. 25, 1988 the five millionth point in NBA history, so league officials had set out to find out who scored the initial points. What they learned brought them to Schectman.
"They had started researching and looking back at old newspapers,''Schectman said in a phone interview. "So they said 'You scored the first basket in NBA history.' I was surprised. I never had any idea.''
"There was my name in the paper,'' Schectman said. "It was in a story about Ben Gordon having scored the 10 millionth point.''
So Schectman again was back in the news. On Jan. 9, Gordon, a Detroit guard, had scored the 10 millionth point in NBA history on a second-quarter jumper against Philadelphia. Schectman's name was mentioned in media reports about how he had gotten it all started 63 years earlier.
So Schectman adjusts his hearing aid and tells the story for what might be the 10 millionth time about scoring the NBA's first bucket. Schectman used to recount the tale when he would meet 30 to 40 friends weekly for breakfast in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., down the road from where he once lived in Delray Beach. Schectman moved last year back to the New York City area, where he grew up, after so many of his friends had died.
"It's been hard on me,'' said Schectman, who lives with his wife, Evelyn, who is 88 and in failing health. "We used to take two cars of people down every week (from Delray Beach) and now they're all gone but me.''
But Schectman's health is as good as he could expect.
"I never thought I'd live to be 90, but I think I mostly still have all my marbles,'' he said.
He sure sounds as if he does. The 6-foot Schectman remembers many details from that Nov. 1, 1946 game, when the Knicks went on the road to face the Toronto Huskies at Maple Leaf Gardens.
"The new league was supposed to open on Saturday, Nov. 2,'' Schectman said of the BAA, which got underway with 11 teams, with the Knicks and the Boston Celtics the only two that have remained in the same city. "But the Toronto Maple Leafs had a hockey game at Maple Leaf Gardens that night so we opened Nov. 1, one day before everybody else. They put the court right on top of the ice.''
The game was well-hyped in Toronto even if the city wasn't exactly known for hoops. An ad in the Toronto Daily Star offered free admission to anyone taller than Toronto's biggest player, 6-foot-8 George Nostrand. Schectman remembers a few fans taking the team up on the offer while it would seem surprising none was signed to a contract by the fledgling Huskies.
A crowd of 7,090 showed up. Shortly after the opening tip, Schectman, the team captain, found himself heading toward the basket.
"It was a fast break, and there were three men coming down and I was in the middle position,'' Schectman said. "I got the ball, and it was a two-handed underhand layup.''
Schectman finished with 11 points as New York won 68-66. Huskies' player-coach Ed Sadowski led everyone with 18 points.
Schectman, who averaged 8.1 points and was third in the league with a 2.0 assists average in his only Knicks season, said he "never paid much attention'' to that two-handed layup for the next 41-plus years. But then the NBA called.
The BAA had merged with the National Basketball League for the 1949-50 season to form what is now the NBA. However, the NBA years ago determined BAA statistics would count in the record book while stats in the NBL, which had featured the legendary George Mikan for his first two seasons, would not.
On Nov. 1, 1996, the NBA celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first game by pitting the Knicks against the Toronto Raptors, in their second season as an expansion franchise. Most of the surviving members from each team showed up, and got a nice round of applause.
Schectman remembers about 10 of the former Knicks making the return trip to Toronto. But much has changed in the past 13 years, with Schectman saying Bud Palmer, 88, who lives in Denver, and Hank Rosenstein, 89, who lives in Florida, being the only other two Knicks survivors.
Schectman still drives despite his advanced age, although he laments, "I can't handle the traffic too well because I don't know the roads too well around here and they all drive too fast.'' Schectman, who grew up in Harlem and Brooklyn, moved to Westchester County simply to be closer to the families of his two sons.
"He's the warmest guy in the world,'' said film director and producer David Vyorst who got to know Schectman in 2001. "When he talks about his basketball memories, his eyes just light up.''
With Schectman being Jewish, Vyorst made a 2008 documentary entitled The First Basket. The film's title comes from Schectman's bucket against Toronto but it is primarily about the rise of Jewish basketball in East Coast cities from the early part of the 20th century until it climaxed around the middle of the century.
Four of the starters on the 1946-47 Knicks were Jewish. But Vyorst said Jews fell off in basketball not long after then because many had moved to the suburbs and stopped playing inner-city ball, adding that the college point-shaving scandals of the early 1950s also played a role. Schools such as City College of New York, New York University, Manhattan College and Long Island University, which had been powers and recruited many Jewish players, began to de-emphasize basketball.
Schectman had starred at LIU, helping the Blackbirds to 1939 and 1941 NIT titles under the legendary Clair Bee. He was first-team All-American in 1941.
"He was a top player,'' Vyorst (pictured, far right) said of Schectman (left), who was inducted in Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Commack, N.Y. in 1998. "He was known for his driving ability.''
Schectman doesn't deny he was a "pretty good ballplayer.'' He proudly declared, "I was very popular in New York. I used to sign autographs before 18,000 fans at Madison Square Garden, where (LIU) played.''
Schectman grew up poor as one of five children of Russian immigrants, and his father was a carpenter. He first learned the game in the 1920s in Harlem, which then was racially diverse and had a number of Jewish settlements. He and his buddies would use for a basket a lower rung of a fire-escape ladder on the side of a tenement apartment. The apartment wall acted as a backboard.
Schectman admits he wasn't the perfect youth, having stolen laundry baskets to sell, holding onto the end of trolleys to ride for free and breaking his nose several times in fights. But he jokes his troubles ended up helping his basketball skills.
"My grandfather would try to hit me with a cane,'' Schectman said. "But I would be able to change directions and fake him out. That's how I learned to play basketball.''
Schectman took his skills to Samuel J. Tilden High School in Brooklyn, to LIU and then to the Philadelphia Spahas of the American Basketball League. The Spahas were a Jewish team whose nickname came from the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association.
"I experienced some rough times,'' Schectman said. "We'd hear Jewish slurs. Fans would yell, 'Hey Abie (a stereotypical name for Jews), pass the ball.' Once there was a fight in Wilmington, Del., and a guy came out of the stands, punched me, and I ended up in the hospital with an impacted wisdom tooth.''
When Schectman, who was making $60 a game for the Spahas, got wind of the Knicks about to begin play in a new pro league, he met with team owner Ned Irish. Schectman had enough clout to get a bigger contract than most of the other players.
"Ned Irish said, 'I've got $60,000 that I've got to split among 12 players so I can give you $5,000 (for the season),'' Schectman said. "I said, 'I should be paid more than that.' So he said, 'I'll tell you what, I'll give you a $3,000 bonus.'''
With the Knicks advancing that season to the league semifinals, where they lost to the eventual champion Philadelphia Warriors, Schectman got another $1,000 as a playoff bonus to give him $9,000 for the season. But plenty changed the following season when he returned to Irish's offices for negotiations.
"He said, 'All I can give you is $5,000,''' Schectman said. "I said, 'To heck with that.' I had a second child coming. So I said, 'I'll go to work.'''
Schectman, then 28, eventually took a job in with the now-defunct Collins & Aikman Corp. selling fabric. He worked there until retiring at 62, and then moved to Florida.
Schectman still follows the NBA closely, and speaks with pride about Sacramento forward Omri Casspi being the first Israeli in the league. He's not one of those old fogeys insisting the game was better back in his day.
"We moved the ball too slowly back then,'' Schectman said. "They move it much more quickly now, which is why it's a much more exciting game. I could have dunked back then but nobody dunked back then. We just never thought about it.
"I don't have any resentment to today's players and all the money they make. They're great athletes and they deserve it.''
To offer a comparison, Schectman was a top guard for the Knicks and Gordon is a top guard for the Pistons. But Gordon, with a salary of $10 million, is making more than 1,000 times what Schectman did.
Schectman was glad to see Gordon score the 10 millionth point. He said he's known about Gordon for years since his oldest son, Stewart, 64, is an avid basketball fan who often has raved about him. Gordon is from Mount Vernon, N.Y., not far from Stewart's residence of Tarrytown, N.Y.
While Gordon has gotten a measure of publicity for his feat, Schectman would like it to be known there's one thing nobody can take from him.
"There's only one player who could have been the first,'' Schectman said. "And it's given me fame, so to speak.''
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson