Steve Chubin’s fascination with basketball started when he was young. “My mother had to drag me in to eat. We would play all day long, all weekend,” Chubin reminisced, adding “It was a lot of fun, coming out from Queens because every afternoon after school, whether it was junior high or even before then, we used to play in the schoolyards all the time.”
While playing for Parsons Junior High School’s basketball team, Chubin and his friends followed Forest Hills High School’s dominant basketball team, led by Mike Weiss and Stu Schacter, whose success in the sport influenced Chubin to also play for Forest Hills' varsity team.
After being offered scholarships from colleges throughout the country, Chubin decided to attend the University of Rhode Island, whose location was a perfect way to gain new experiences while staying connected to his family.
“I wanted to go out of town and I really wanted my parents to go to every game,” he said. “I was so close with my mom and dad. My dad and I were sort of partners, and he never missed a game- and that was our whole life. He and I would talk basketball every day.”
At school, Chubin surrounded himself with fellow athletes, some of whom who he still keeps in touch with today. Those friends helped him balance both basketball and academics at school, and together they made it to the NCAA Championships in 1966.
While Chubin’s favorite games from college are obviously victories, they are also the games that particularly showcased the powerful relationship his teammates and schoolmates had. When Rhode Island defeated rival Providence on the road by 25 points, Chubin and his team returned to campus to the celebratory cheering of thousands of students. He also recalls the NCAA Championship playoff game when the Rams overcame a 20-point deficit in the second half to defeat the University of Connecticut, noting, “All of a sudden we got crazy. We got so intense — fire in our eyes — and we beat them. Sometimes in sports you get so fired up, you just can’t lose.”
Though Chubin is grateful that he graduated from the University of Rhode Island, he has mixed feelings about the current rule that makes it necessary for aspiring professional basketball players to attend at least one year of college.
“I think in baseball and other sports, and soccer around the world, you can go pro at 18. So, if you’re that good — like a LeBron James — nothing should hold you back,” Chubin said, but he also added, “I think it’s important to do very, very well in school because not that many guys are going to make the pros. So getting a good education is fantastic.”
Chubin looks back on his college career and thinks of three things: his parents’ commitment to attend every home game, his team’s talent, and graduating with his school’s all-time scoring record. But a relatively recent change in the NCAA’s requirements that prohibits statistics from an athlete’s freshman year of ball from counting toward a record dropped Chubin’s first place spot in the record books, to the No. 5 spot.
While the rule change caused controversy when it was instated, a different issue, the topic of steroids, still continues to dominate the sports headlines. Chubin has a very strong opinion about such drugs after losing to a team that had taken performance-enhancing treatments.
“One year when I first got out of college, I was playing in Europe and I played on a fabulous team. And we lost a game and the coach said right after the game to us that the other team was on drugs. To me, that’s so unfair. Here you are — you’re trying your best and you’re playing against a person that’s cheating. In my opinion, that’s disgraceful. Just play your heart out without any help.”
Though many would agree with Chubin’s stance on steroids, his support for college athletes receiving money may be more surprising. “Here’s my opinion. You’ve got today the coaches making a fortune. The college coaches in football, basketball are absolutely making a fortune. The school kind of makes a fortune. I think it would be kind of nice to pay the guys a little bit,” he said, adding that when he played ball, professional athletes didn’t make nearly as much money as they make now.
While in his dorm room, Chubin got the call that he was drafted to the NBA’s San Francisco Warriors. But being the 23rd pick in a sport that at the time had as few as 10 teams, each with 11 players, did not give college athletes many opportunities. At the same time, Chubin was offered Hall of Fame athlete Bill Bradley’s spot on Italy’s basketball team, the second-best squad in the world behind America. He immediately accepted, not confident that he would make the NBA that year.
The opening of the ABA drastically increased the amount of playing positions. Chubin returned to the United States and played his first two years in the ABA in Los Angeles, later playing in Indiana followed by two years on the New York Nets.
Chubin looks back on his time playing professional ball in both the ABA and abroad with fond memories of his teammates and the bond they shared over playing their sport. “You just have so much in common,” he said, adding, “color didn’t mean anything to me.”
After retiring from the ABA, Chubin played basketball in Israel before moving to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It was there where he learned about his friend Warren Jabali’s Midnight Basketball program in Miami, which taught the game to inner-city youths. With the help of a government grant, Chubin opened a similar program in Fort Lauderdale in the ’90s called Broward County Under the Stars.
“The kids were great, great athletes. They never ever had a kind word said to them, and my deal was I kept encouraging them and telling them they could do great,” Chubin said. With the help of his staff, he said, he believes he was able to make a difference in the children’s lives.
A few years later Chubin joined a program in which athletes helped native Americans. He traveled to an American Indian reservation in Pheonix before helping build a Boys & Girls Club on a reservation in Wyoming.
Chubin now lives in Denver, and though he is no longer involved in an organized program, he enjoys helping neighborhood children develop fundamental basketball skills, finding that he still has what it takes to offer helpful tips to young players.
He is thrilled about becoming a member of the first class of Legends but is especially proud for his wife and daughters.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m very thankful for the university and for the athletic department,” Chubin said. “I’m so proud to represent my teammates and I’m so proud to represent all the wonderful men and women that have played basketball at the university.”
Though Chubin has a strong connection to Rhode Island and now lives far from the East Coast, he retains a genuine love for his Queens roots.
“I’m so happy and proud to have come from Queens,” he said. “I think it’s a great place to grow up. I love, love New Yorkers — that’s who I am. I wouldn’t have traded coming out of New York for any place in the world.”