On June 18, University of North Carolina basketball legend Lennie Rosenbluth passed away at the age of 89. The university announced his death but did not provide a cause.
Rosenbluth, a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Israel and the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Commack, N.Y., guided the UNC Tar Heels to a perfect 32-0 record during the 1956-57 season — one that culminated in a 54-53 triple-overtime win over Wilt Chamberlain’s Kansas Jayhawks.
In the national title game Rosenbluth scored 20 points before fouling out late in regulation. In UNC’s first-ever championship season, he averaged 28 points per game (still the school’s record) and, in doing so, edged Chamberlain for the Helms Foundation College Basketball Player of the Year award. After graduating from Chapel Hill in spring 1957, the 6-foot-5 forward enjoyed a brief stint in the NBA for the Philadelphia Warriors before becoming an American history teacher and basketball coach.
Before Sandy Koufax emerged as a Hall of Fame pitcher, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency referred to Rosenbluth, a 2003 inductee in the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, as arguably the “preeminent Jewish athlete in the United States.”
This was hardly hyperbole. Although he never lived up to his potential in the NBA (it wasn’t so easy playing behind future Hall-of-Famer Paul Arizin while making only $5,000 per year) Rosenbluth cemented his legacy as one of the premier college basketball players of his generation, garnering recognition as an all-Atlantic Coast Conference honoree in each of his three seasons at UNC. His No. 10 is one of only eight uniforms retired by UNC, along with those of Phil Ford, Michael Jordan, Antawn Jamison, Tyler Hansbrough, Jack Cobb, George Glamack and James Worthy.
Born and raised in the Bronx, N.Y., during the Great Depression, Rosenbluth became an inspiration to the Jewish community with his dominant play in the summer leagues in the Catskill Mountains and later his outstanding career at UNC, where he scored 2,047 points, the most ever by a UNC player who appeared in only three seasons.
After living in Florida for most of his adulthood, the retired hoops star moved to the Chapel Hill area just over a decade ago and became a regular fixture at UNC games. He is survived by his second wife, Dianne Stabler, whom he married in 2011, following the passing of his first wife, Helen; a daughter, Elizabeth; a son, Steven and grandchildren from his first marriage.
- David Ostrowsky
- University of North Carolina
- Lennie Rosenbluth
- National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum
- Wilt Chamberlain
- Kansas Jayhawks
- e Helms Foundation College Basketball Player of the Year
- Sandy Koufax
- Jewish Telegraphic Agency
- Paul Arizin
- Atlantic Coast Conference
- Phil Ford
- Michael Jordan
- Antawn Jamison
- Tyler Hansbrough
- Jack Cobb
- George Glamack
- James Worthy
- Great Depression
- Catskill Mountains