March 12, 1914|
Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
|Died||June 28, 2000
Fort Lee, New Jersey, United States
|Occupation||National Basketball Association public relations director|
Haskell Cohen (March 12, 1914 – June 28, 2000) was the public relations director of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1950 to 1969. He is known as the creator of the NBA All-Star Game. He was inducted to the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame for his contributions in basketball.
In 1951, Cohen joined the NBA as the league's publicity director. He teamed up with NBA President Maurice Podoloff, forming a two-man office. At that time, the basketball world had just been stunned by the college basketball point-shaving scandal. Cohen came up with an idea of hosting an All-Star Game featuring the league's best player, similar to the Major League Baseball's All-Star Game. He believed that such showcase would regain fans' interest in basketball. Podoloff and the majority of team owners were pessimistic that the idea would go bad and taint the league's image. However, Boston Celtics owner remained confident with Cohen's idea. He offered to host the game and to cover all the expenses or potential losses incurred from the game. The first NBA All-Star Game was held on March 2, 1951 at the Boston Garden. The game became a success, drawing a crowd of 10,094, much higher than that season's average attendance of 3,500. Since then, the All-Star Game became an annual mid-season tradition in the NBA.
Before joining the NBA, Cohen was a writer for the Pittsburgh Courier and also a scout for the Duquesne Dukes. While scouting for Duquesne, he discovered Fletcher Jones. Jones became a professional basketball player before becoming a medical doctor. He later teamed up with Cohen, NBA player Jack Twyman and hotel owner Milton Kutsher in 1958 to create the Maurice Stokes charity game. The game was intended to raise money for Stokes, who had just suffered encephalopathy, a brain injury that damaged his motor control center. That game became an annual tradition to raise money for other former players in financial need. The Maurice Stokes games were held at Kutsher's Hotel in Monticello, New York or at their camp, the Kutsher's Sports Academy.
In 1948, Cohen founded the United States Committee Sports for Israel. The committee sponsored American participation in the Maccabiah Games in Israel, an Olympic-style competition for Jewish athletes. He later became the president of the committee from 1961 to 1969. In 1981, he became the first chairman of International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He held the position until 1989 and in 1991 he received the Hall of Fame Pillar of Achievement, an honor given to a person who have made significant contributions to sports.
He was a longtime contributing editor to Parade, an American national Sunday newspaper magazine. He originated its high school all-American teams in football and basketball. He was also the sports editor for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency for 17 years. He was also a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame Board of Trustees, a member of the United States Olympic Basketball Committee, and a member of the Amateur Basketball Association USA.
- Goldstein, Richard (July 3, 2000). "Haskell Cohen, 86, Publicist; Created N.B.A. All-Star Game". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved June 22, 2010.
- "1951 All-Star Game: East 111, West 94". NBA.com. Turner Sports Interactive, Inc. Retrieved June 22, 2010.
- Forrester, Paul (February 16, 2007). "That's entertainment; Counting down the top 15 All-Star Weekend moments". Sports Illustrated. Time Warner Company. Retrieved June 22, 2010.
- "57 Memorable All-Star Moments – 1950s". NBA.com. Turner Sports Interactive, Inc. Retrieved June 22, 2010.
- Bondy, Filip (February 5, 1998). "Star-Studded Changes". NY Daily News. Daily News, L.P. Retrieved June 22, 2010.
- Vecsey, Peter (October 14, 2008). "Hoop World Mourns for Fletcher Johnson". New York Post. NYP Holdings, Inc. Retrieved June 22, 2010.
- "Haskell Cohen". International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved June 22, 2010.
- "International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame Honorees receiving the Pillar of Achievement". International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved June 22, 2010.