Syd Lipski, pioneer of basketball writing, has died

Syd Lipski, the doyen of British basketball journalists, has died at the age of 83 at hospital in Essex.

Ever-present at the sport’s major events until well into his eighth decade, he was a link back to the era where basket and ball were still two words and where dunks remained the province of digestives in tea.

Lipski, who trained initially as a hairdresser, witnessed the game’s early days in the UK including Great Britain’s sole Olympic Games appearance in 1948, as well as its initial growth in popularity through the YMCA network.

A correspondent for several newspapers as well as a press officer for the English Basketball Association, using his unrivalled network of contacts as he wrote extensively from tournaments and games in all the corners of the globe in the days before international travel was commonplace. And his inability to drive proved no barrier to his regular presence on the domestic scene.

Also a qualified top-level referee, he later became a hugely-respected FIBA match Commissioner. In his pomp, he was also a dab hand on the court.

“He had a quite deadly old-fashioned two-handed set-shot,” recalls journalist Sandy Sutherland, “which he used with great effect in press games at tournaments.”

In later years, despite his declining health, he still kept in touch with the comings and goings of the game, despite his professed aversion to new technology.

“For years, Syd would call once a week to catch up and find out what was going on,” Mark Woods, the secretary of the Basketball Journalists Association, said. “He’d learnt that, through the internet, there was a wealth of stories available from around the world. If there was something which he was really interested in, there’d be a request to print it off and fax it over so he could digest it in full.”

Through his extensive career, Lipski collated a vast archive of material which, with his co-operation, has been catalogued and placed in trust with both the Basketball Fellowship and FIBA as a reference for future generations, ensuring his marvellous legacy will endure.

“I will always remember his near-encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of the game,” said BBC correspondent Rob Dugdale. “That sort of thing is something we lose at our peril, especially somewhere like Britain where the beginnings of the game are largely ignored and undocumented.”

Lipski is survived by his two sisters and has been laid to rest in the Western Synagogue Cemetery in Cheshunt.