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155. Tom Meschery

At the height of the Cold War there was an oddity in the NBA, someone born in Manchuria, China to Russian parents was a star in the NBA. Tom Meschery born Tomislav Nikolayevich Meshcheryakov opened up the NBA to non American born players well before the influx of European stars in the 1990s.

Meschery’s early life is one of the most interesting of any NBA player. His parents fled the October Revolution in Russia which put the Bolshavik’s in power, only to end up in a Japanese internment camp following the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. Following the conclusions of World War II the family moved to San Francisco, this was at the height of the anti-Communist fears in the United States and right during the infamous McCarthy hearings in Congress so Tom’s father changed the family’s name to Meschery and Tomislav became Thomas.

Meschery was drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors in 1961 with the 7th pick. The Warriors paired him with superstar Wilt Chamberlain. His rookie year he averages 12 points and 9 rebounds . His second year in the NBA he averaged a career high 16 points and was selected to his only all-star game. His second season in the NBA the Warriors also moved from Philadelphia back to Meschery’s home town of San Francisco.

Meschery would play 5 seasons in San Francisco and six total with the Warriors before joining the expansion Seattle Supersonics in 1967. His first two years in Seattle he averaged a double-double of 10 rebounds and 12 points and helped the Sonics become the first successful pro-sports team to be established in Seattle.

Following the 1971 season Meschery retired from the NBA and became the head coach to the American Basketball Association’s Carolina Cougars. He lasted nearly the entire season before being replaced by Larry Brown.

Following his playing days Meschery went back to school to eventually get his teaching credentials. He became a teacher in the Reno, Nevada area until he retired in 2005. Meschery also published a series of books about his playing days. He is also an accomplished poet who wrote several poems about teammates including Wilt Chamberlain.

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