Stanley “Whitey” Von Nieda, the first former NBA player to become a centenarian, died on Wednesday at 101 years old. News of Von Nieda’s passing, which occurred in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, was confirmed by the league on Friday. In June of 2022, he was honored by the National Basketball Retired Players Association for becoming the first former player to live to 100.
“Most of the guys I played with and against at that time were pretty dedicated to the game. They loved the game and they played it for the love of the game,” Von Nieda said in an interview clip released by the league on Friday. “I was at one time named ‘Whitey.’ I used to have white hair, very blonde hair. I was glad to be a part of it. I loved the game, I still do. It’s been a great experience for me. I have great memories.”
While still a student at Penn State University, Von Nieda began his professional career by playing for the Lancaster Red Roses of the Eastern Basketball League on the weekends. He led the EBL in scoring for two consecutive seasons, and his play for the Red Roses drew the attention of the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, who signed him for $2,000 in 1948. At the time, the Blackhawks played in the National Basketball League, which later merged with the Basketball Association of America to form the NBA.
Von Nieda spent a lone post-merger season in the NBA, playing 59 games for the Blackhawks — then coached by Red Auerbach — and Baltimore Bullets. One of them was the first official post-merger game, in which he scored 14 points for the Blackhawks in a 93-85 win over the Denver Nuggets at Wharton Field House in Moline, Illinois. He averaged 5.3 points and 2.4 assists that season, which would be his last after an eye injury ended his professional career.
“I played against the best that there were in that time,” Von Nieda told Penn State Mag earlier this year. “And I felt very proud to be able to do that.”
Following his retirement from the NBA, Von Nieda became the head coach at Elizabethtown College, where he led the team to a 27-18 in three seasons in charge. He later became an advertising salesman, played some semi-pro ball, tended bar for over 60 years and wrote a trivia column for a local paper, The Ephrata Review.