Ernie Grunfeld: A Basketball Life


Which sports fan from the 1970s doesn’t remember Ernie Grunfeld?

Dan Grunfeld.

In the early Seventies, the Forest Hills native was a star at Forest Hills High School, where his talent earned him nationwide recognition.
After that, it was on to the University of Tennessee, where Grunfeld starred alongside Brooklyn native Bernard King to lead the Volunteers to several winning seasons.
In his career at Knoxville, Grunfeld scored 2,249 total points, a record that stood for a good 20 years.
He capped his college career as a member of the gold medal-winning 1976 U.S. Olympic squad. Grunfeld also played for Team USA in the 1973 Maccabiah Games.
After graduation, Grunfeld played professionally for the Milwaukee Bucks, the Kansas City Kings before returning home to play four seasons with the New York Knickerbockers.
Grunfeld then began a career, first, in broadcasting and later, as an assistant coach for the Knicks and as a front office executive for the Knicks and the Washington Wizards.
To celebrate Grunfeld’s life and career, The Brotherhood of Temple Judea recently held via zoom a Meet the Author Night program, featuring author Dan Grunfeld, whose book, By the Grace of the Game, was recently published.
“Grunfeld gave a fascinating description of his family’s participation in basketball as well as their experiences during the Holocaust. Grunfeld’s father Ernie Grunfeld, a Knick favorite for many years, was the only NBA player whose family endured the Holocaust. The book touchingly describes that connection and Ernie’s journey,” a Temple Judea press release stated.
“The elder Grunfeld arrived as an immigrant with his parents as they escaped the ravages of Nazism. He soon became enamored with the game of basketball and practiced on the outdoor courts of Queens before honing his basketball talent as a teenager in various gymnasiums. He went on to become a college star and eventually a professional player. Ernie Grunfeld also won an Olympic gold medal and achieved success as an NBA player and executive that his family could never have imagined when they set out for America.
“Grunfeld enthralled the group with his family’s unlikely story and the success of his father. The author, who was also once a basketball standout at Stanford University, told an exciting story and answered many questions from his highly attentive audience.”

Published by Triumph Books, By The Grace of The Game is summarized in dramatic terms.
“When Lily and Alex entered a packed gymnasium in Queens, New York in 1972, they barely recognized their son. The boy who escaped to America with them, who was bullied as he struggled to learn English and cope with family tragedy, was now a young man who had discovered and secretly honed his basketball talent on the outdoor courts of New York City. That young man was Ernie Grunfeld, who would go on to win an Olympic gold medal and reach previously unimaginable heights as an NBA player and executive.
“In By the Grace of the Game, Dan Grunfeld, once a basketball standout himself at Stanford University, shares the remarkable story of his family, a delicately interwoven narrative that doesn’t lack in heartbreak yet remains as deeply nourishing as his grandmother’s Hungarian cooking, so lovingly described. The true improbability of the saga lies in the discovery of a game that unknowingly held the power to heal wounds, build bridges, and tie together a fractured Jewish family. If the magnitude of an American dream is measured by the intensity of the nightmare that came before and the heights of the triumph achieved after, then By the Grace of the Game recounts an American dream story of unprecedented scale.”
The book has already received splendid reviews from online customers.
“I read this in one sitting and immediately started researching my own connections to the Holocaust. Dan combines a deeply personal story with humor and historical context. Jewish or not, athlete or not, this one has life lessons for everyone. It reminded me of the Simon Wiesenthal quote we recall each year on Yom Hashoah (the Day of Remembrance): “for evil to flourish, it only requires good people to do nothing.” Dan, thanks for doing something.” Dan Turchin.
“Although I have no interest in sports, I loved this book. The author is a wonderful writer. His and his family’s story is so interesting and heartwarming. I highly recommend By the Grace of the Game to anyone who wants a book that is hard to put down.” Dreyna.
“Our book club members all played recreational hoops together for 25+ years. This was a perfect book for us. It wasn’t just the basketball stories, but a reminder of the wonderful opportunities that evolve from hard work and commitment. It’s a well written moving story with moments of that make one appreciate how fortunate we are; particularly with respect to family. An excellent read, worthy of a five star review.” Jim Farmer.

-Information provided by Temple Judea


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