SU basketball great Billy Gabor passes away at 97

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(SYRACUSE ATHLETICS 6/5/19) — Billy Gabor, one of an exclusive group of 14 Syracuse men’s basketball players who have had their jerseys retired, passed away on June 4.

Gabor, the first 1,000-point career scorer in Syracuse men’s basketball history, was one of the program’s early marquee players. He went on to play professionally with the Syracuse Nationals and won an NBA championship during his tenure.

Prior to his passing, he was believed to be the oldest living former NBA player at age 97.

“Billy Gabor stands as one of the all-time greats in the history of the Syracuse University men’s basketball program,” said John Wildhack, Syracuse University Director of Athletics. “His time with the University included serving in World War ll as a member of the United State Army Air Corps. When he returned to school he became our program’s first 1,000-point career scorer. He went on to earn a spot on the Syracuse University All-Century Team that was selected in 2000. His jersey is one of 14 the University has retired. On behalf of Syracuse University Athletics, we send our thoughts and prayers to the family of Billy Gabor.” 

Gabor, who wore number 17, was a fixture in the Syracuse lineup during 1942-43, 1945-46, 1946-47 and 1947-48 seasons. He missed two seasons while serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. Gabor was the first SU player to tally 400 season points when he scored 409 in 1946-47. He also was the first to score 1,000 career points, finishing with 1,344. Gabor set what was then the school record for game points, scoring 36

He was coached at Syracuse by Lewis Andreas. After playing on a sub-.500 club his first season, in 1942-43 (8-10), Gabor returned from the armed forces to help the Orange post a 23-4 record in 1945-46. The squad was the first to win 20 games at Syracuse and earned the program’s initial NIT berth. The following campaign, SU was 19-6 and played in the NCAA District II Play-off. In Gabor’s final campaign, the Orange was 11-13.

Gabor, who was nicknamed “The Bullet” because of his quickness, was named to the Syracuse All-Century Team in 2000, one of two Syracuse performers selected who played before 1950. Prior to that, he was honored as a SU LetterWinner of Distinction and received the Hardwood Club’s Vic Hanson Medal of Excellence.

He was signed by the NBA’s Syracuse Nationals in 1948 and played seven seasons with the club. Gabor was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1948-49 and was picked for the NBA All-Star game in 1953. He accumulated 3,352 points in the NBA and averaged in double digits in 1949-50 (10.9 ppg.) and 1950-51 (11.3 ppg.). Gabor was a member of the Nationals’ NBA Championship club in 1954-55. His career was cut short by hepatitis.

Gabor officially had his jersey retired in a ceremony at halftime of the Syracuse vs. Cincinnati game on March 1, 2009. At the time, he was the ninth Syracuse performer to receive the recognition.

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