Orange Watch: A tribute to one of the greatest players in Syracuse basketball history

Syracuse University mascot Otto the Orange. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: It was a sad day in Orange Nation Tuesday with word that Billy Gabor, believed to be the oldest former NBA player, had passed away at his home in Florida at age 97.

Before Carmelo Anthony (2003), Derrick Coleman (1987-1990), Pearl Washington (1984-86), and Dave Bing (1964-66), the big-time SU star in the 1940s was Gabor (1943, 46-48), first to score 400 points in a season and 1000 points for his career, one that was interrupted by a stint in World War II during a period that the team played its home games on campus at Archbold Gym, and off campus at the New York State Fair Coliseum following a fire at Archbold in 1947.

In fact, Gabor, nicknamed “The Bullet” for his unique quickness as both a passer and scorer in a different era of the game, played for the legendary Lew Andreas (second behind Jim Boeheim in Syracuse career victories with 358 and winning percentage at almost 73%) on the first Orange team to win 20 games in a season (1945-46), and despite nagging injuries finished his ‘Cuse career as the school’s all-time leading scorer, a mark that stood until Bing surpassed it almost 20 years later.

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With the uniqueness of moving from playing collegiately to the NBA in the same Salt City, Gabor, a Binghamton native as well, had a solid and most fortuitous six year pro career with the Nationals, which included being named to the all-rookie team in 1949, the all star team in 1953, and capped off by winning a ring as the Nats won the 1955 NBA title.

Named as one of 25 members of Syracuse’s All-Century team in 2000, there’s an obvious reason why Gabor’s No. 17 was retired and hung high above the Dome court during a 2009 ceremony.

His jersey joins not only the aforementioned Anthony (jersey retired in 2013), Coleman (2006), Washington (1996), and Bing (1981), but Vic Hanson (1981), Sherman Douglas (2003), Wilmeth Sidat-Singh (2005), Rony Seikaly (2007), Billy Owens (2008), Roosevelt Bouie and Louis Orr (2015), and Dennis DuVal and Lawrence Moten (2018) as well with the career honor.

A salute to Billy Gabor, one of the best to ever wear a Syracuse basketball uniform.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.