Harvey Pollack, the last original employee of the NBA’s inaugural season to still be working in the league, has died. He was 93.
Pollack died on Tuesday. Pollack worked for the Philadelphia 76ers at the time of his death, spending the past 28 years as the team’s director of statistical information.
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In 1946, Pollack began his career with the Philadelphia Warriors of the Basketball Association of America, which later merged with the National Basketball League to form the National Basketball Association, as the team’s assistant publicity director.
He sat courtside on March 6, 1962, when Warriors center Wilt Chamberlain scored a record 100 points against the New York Knicks. When the game was over, Pollack stuffed the ball in Chamberlain’s duffel bag and organized a famed photo. Pollack wrote ”100” on a piece of paper and gave it to Chamberlain to hold for the classic black-and-white snapshot.
”He may never have laced up his sneakers, but few have done more to advance the game, in the NBA or Philadelphia basketball, than Harvey,” Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil said. ”He did what he loved until the end, and shared that love of statistics and basketball with his family, who we remember at this difficult time.
”We count ourselves incredibly lucky to have had his wealth of knowledge, indomitable spirit, passionate drive and love for our sport with us here in Philadelphia and with the Sixers for so many years. He will be missed while his legacy will endure.”
Pollack was awarded the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. It is the highest honor bestowed to an individual outside of enshrinement.
”He documented NBA history for nearly 70 years with passion, curiosity and a relentless work ethic,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. ”Harvey has been a true caretaker and ambassador of the game, and he will be sorely missed.”
Known as the ”Super Stat,” Pollack was widely considered the engineer of modern-day basketball statistics. Pollack was credited with beginning the league’s official tracking of offensive and defensive rebounds, steals, turnovers, blocked shots and minutes played. He coined the triple-double.
”I don’t have a favorite stat,” Pollack said. ”I like to keep stats, period.”
The number crunching started in 1942 when Pollack was the student-manager for Temple basketball and he realized he could do more than keep track of points and shots. He made columns for rebounds, assists and blocked shots, stats that would eventually become routine but were revolutionary for college hoops.
After a stint in the war after graduation, he worked as a sports writer for the Philadelphia Bulletin. He kept stats at basketball doubleheaders and eventually was hired by the Warriors as an assistant PR director.
He was promoted a few years later and worked as head PR director for the Warriors/76ers all the way until the late 1980s.
The 76ers’ run toward their first championship in 1966-67 prompted the organization to put Pollack in charge of a midseason media guide, their first. The book was only 24 pages and each one had a beer ad. The 76ers’ all-time roster took up two pages.
”Harvey Pollack’s Statistical Yearbook,” was printed annually for decades, including this season, and was stuffed with info on slams, streaks, standings and steals.
In his 90s, Pollack often plugged away at a typewriter, not much different than the one he lugged to Hershey, Pennsylvania, on March 6, 1962, when Chamberlain scored 100 points.
Pollack started the night as the public relations director for the Warriors and the game statistician. With each milestone basket putting Chamberlain closer to triple digits, Pollack was pressed into action. He wrote or dictated the game story for The Associated Press, The Philadelphia Inquirer and United Press International.
His son, Ron, who later joined Pollack on the Sixers stat crew, ran the copy to Western Union. AP photographer Paul Vathis, who attended the game as a fan, rushed to a car for his equipment. Pollack said he squashed an idea of posing Chamberlain with the ball and wanted something more unique to preserve the moment.
”Why don’t we do something to show the 100 points,” Pollack said.
So Pollack wrote ”100” on a piece of paper and gave it to Chamberlain. An NBA classic was born.
Pollack was the only person with all four Philly pro basketball championship rings, earning them with the Warriors in 1946-47 and 1955-56 and the Sixers in 1966-67 and 1982-83.
”Harvey embodied our league’s great history and its extraordinary aspirations,” NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern said.
”At a time when statistics are giving all of us a new perspective on the game, we have lost someone who understood its nuances in a way that will never be duplicated.”
At one point, Pollack headed stat crews at six major Philadelphia-area colleges simultaneously and was Temple football’s statistician for more than 60 years.
He also spent time in charge of the stats crew for the Philadelphia Wings of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League and the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League.
Pollack served as the head of the stats crew for the NFL’s Baltimore Colts for 15 seasons.
Pollack balanced his career in sports with entertainment, and would write a column for a suburban weekly. He reviewed restaurants, concerts, or traveling Broadway shows. He even did the circus.
”I never had a job that I didn’t like,” Pollack said. ”I never had a job that when I got up in the morning, I said, `Oh do I have to go into the office today?’ I never had a job where I didn’t have something to do when I got in.”