Dave Newmark: Rookie on the Spot, 1969

[In 1969, Fawcett Publications released its annual True’s Basketball Yearbook. On the cover were the usual, eye-catching glossies of NBA stars Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, and Jerry West in action. More unusual was the magazine’s table of contents, particularly a brief article on page 12 that touted two NBA rookies on the spot. 

The first was no surprise. San Diego’s Elvin Hayes, the top pick in the NBA’s college draft. The other Johnny “on the spot” literally wasn’t anyone’s top choice: Chicago’s Dave Newmark. The seven-footer from Columbia University was a third-round pick (31st selection) and was largely unknown outside of his native New York. 

What landed Newmark in the preseason spotlight was his Ivy League credentials. Everyone loves an underdog, and rarely did an Ivy Leaguer make a big splash in the NBA. The following article, which has no byline, makes the case that Newmark might be the exception. Unmentioned, though, Chicago selected two big men before him in the draft, including the extra-large Tom Boerwinkle of Tennessee.

The article is reprised here because we like Dave Newmark. It’s as simple as that. Also, as the Youtube video below attests, there were lots of future pros on the loose in the Ivy League in Newmark’s day.]


In joining the Chicago Bulls as a 7-foot-1 rookie Dave Newmark has height going for him, but not history. Newmark is out of Columbia, the Ivy League, and only one Ivy League product, Rudy LaRusso, has made it big in the NBA. 

Of the 250-odd players who have scored more than 3,000 points in their NBA careers, LaRusso, who played at Dartmouth a decade ago, is the only one with an Ivy League background. Several other Ivy League players have had an NBA opportunity, notably Bill Bradley in his current whirl with the New York Knickerbockers, but only LaRusso of the San Francisco Warriors had made it big. 

“But we think Newmark will, too,” says Dick Klein, the owner of the Bulls. “That’s why we went after him.”

Newmark had another season of eligibility at Columbia. He did not play two years ago because of a serious tonsillitis attack that weakened his slender frame. He had averaged 23.6 points a game as a sophomore, and when he returned last season, he accumulated less points, a 16.8 average. 

But he was the big man in Columbia’s rise to the Ivy League championship. At midseason, he had aided the Lions in winning the Holiday Festival Tournament at Madison Square Garden, where he battled Westley Unseld of Louisville, a performance that surely impressed the NBA scouts.

“Our reports,” said Klein, “tell us that Newmark can become one of the best big man in the NBA.”

If he does, the Bulls should develop into a contender in the Western Division. Now in their third season, they have not had a dependable center, and no team is capable of challenging for a championship without a quality center. 

Perhaps the best example of this is the Cincinnati Royals. In their brilliant backcourtman, Oscar Robertson, and their solid cornerman, Jerry Lucas, the Royals possess two of the NBA’s best players at those positions, but they lack a center and, as a result, they do not even come close to challenging for divisional honors. 

In obtaining Newmark, the Bulls lured him with a lucrative contract because he had intended to remain at Columbia for another season. “When they made their offer,” Newmark says, “I decided that I could get my degree in American history in the offseason. With the kind of money that they offered me, it would have been foolish for me to turn it down.”

Until the Bulls chose and signed him, Newmark had been ill-starred. As a freshman, he was pushing open a glass door when it shattered, gashing one of his wrists. As a junior, he suffered his tonsilitis. But when he is healthy, he has displayed the potential of a pro, despite the weaker competition in the Ivy League. 

“In the NBA,” says Klein, “he’ll have to be a little heavier in order to stand up to the schedule, but we’ll fatten him up.”

And you can be sure Dave Newmark will be sleeping. Prior to a game with Yale last season, he slept for 14 hours. When he awoke, he thought he would be sluggish, but he scored 40 points, his high for the season.

“He can sleep 14 hours whenever he wants to,” says Dick Klein.

[Newmark, the Ivy Leaguer, wasn’t in the spotlight for long. He settled in behind Boerwinkle in the Bulls’ rotation, and Chicago’s no-nonsense coach Dick Motta wasn’t one to rely on too many rookies. As Chicago Tribune reporter Bob Logan recalled of Newmark in his 1975 book The Bulls and Chicago, “Though he helped sporadically while relieving Boerwinkle, Dave’s freewheeling lifestyle didn’t fit into Motta’s masterplan, and he lasted only one year.” Motta shipped Newmark to Atlanta, where he spent a season before heading to the ABA. 

But before leaving Newmark, here’s a fun syndicated newspaper story that ran in January 1968, while “Shorty,” as he was known, was still in college. The story, written by the great Ira Berkow, features none other than the Big Dipper himself.]

“Hey, Newmark,” yelled Wilt Chamberlain, “people tell me you got a good touch. Let’s see it. Buck a shot on free throws.”

Almost before he could get out of his elephantine street shoes, Dave Newmark strode trippingly across the court. After all, matching free throws with Wilt is normally as sure as betting the rabbit in a dog race.

The tableau between the seven-footers took place in Philadelphia last winter. Wilt had just finished a practice session with the 76ers, and Newmark, who had dropped out of Columbia for a year due to ill health, was working with a television network.

“We started flinging them up,” said Newmark. “He made 45 out of 50. It was fantastic. He just got the ball and quickly threw it in. I made 40.

“I said to him, ‘Jeez, Wilt, what is this? Do you just miss ‘em in games so you can con guys into a buck a throw?’

“’No, man’ he said. ‘I’m a hypo. I just can’t shoot ‘em in a game.’ So he said, ‘Give me the five bucks.’ I said, ‘Double or nothing on one-on-one.’

“He said he couldn’t, that he had to leave. He insisted on the five bucks. Another television guy walked over and handed him a $1,500 check for a show he’d been on. Wilt took the check without even looking at it and said to me, ‘Let’s have that fiver, Newmark.’

“I still haven’t given it to him. I’m waiting for the one-on-one, double or nothing.”

Newmark has left the capitalistic world of television and returned to Columbia, where he has led the Lions to a spot in the national ratings. “I see Wilt once in a while,” said Newmark, “and he’s always about that money. We get along well, but our friendship has been kind of rocky.

“It even started that way. About four years ago, I was working at a resort in the Catskills. I was still in high school. Wilt came up for the Maurice Stokes charity game.

“A couple so-called friends of mine left a note for him. It was two pages long and said things like, ‘You big fink. You couldn’t even shine my gym shoes.’ They signed it ‘Dave Newmark.’

“I was eating in the dining room, and someone taps me on the shoulder. I looked up—and up. It was Wilt, with two other guys. I had never met him before. He handed me the note. ‘Are you Dave Newmark?’ he asked. 


“‘Did you write this?’

I read it. 

“‘N-n-n-n-o,’ I said.’ 

“’Who did?’

“’I d-d-d-d-don’t know.”

“He left. Later, we played some together and got to be friends. I still don’t know if he ever found out who wrote it, or if he thinks it was really me.

“That wasn’t all. He borrowed a pair of my basketball trunks. I weighed 240, about what I am now. Wilt must go 300. So he played in the game and all kinds of people were watching, and the trunks ripped right up the middle. 

“I wasn’t there at the time. People said he was looking for me. I’ve learned that, when Wilt’s around, I kind of make myself scarce.”

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