Harvey Pollack, Philly Hoops Legend, Dead at 93

Pollack, a fixture at Philadelphia sporting events, had been employed by an NBA team in Philadelphia since the league was founded.

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Harvey Pollack, the jovial statistician who had worked for a pro basketball team in Philadelphia since the NBA’s inception, has died. He was 93.

“Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the passing of a true NBA legend, Harvey Pollack,” 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil said in a statement. “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. 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.” Pollack had been seriously injured in a car crash early this year.

Pollack is probably best known for writing “100” on the piece of paper held by Wilt Chamberlain in the famous photo after his 100-point game. Amazingly, Pollack was also the Inquirer, AP and UPI correspondent for that game.

“I went to a reporter, ripped off a sheet of paper, wrote 100 on it, had the picture taken,” Pollack said in 2012. “Went outside, went to the phone, called the AP and UPI, had my son read the box scores, then I went to press table and wrote a completely new story for the Inquirer.”

Pollack, most recently the Sixers’ director of statistical information, had a ring from all four championship teams in Philadelphia (2 from the Warriors, 2 from the 76ers). He began his career as the assistant publicity director for the Warriors in the 1946-47 season, the NBA’s first. He was an innovative stat-keeper, taking note of things like shot distance, minutes played, rebounds, blocked shots and even plus/minus and “per-48 minutes” projections well before the NBA caught on. In 1966, Philadelphia Bulletin writer George Kiseda nicknamed him “Super Stat.”

“One thing Harvey loved to do was chart each player’s tattoos,” the Sixers’ Bob Mueller said earlier this year. “We just don’t do that. That’s a Harvey stat.”

He was also the inventor of the triple-double, which he used to describe Magic Johnson‘s 1979-80 season. Yes, without him, there is no iconic “Get me on the court and I’m trouble/ Last week messed around and got a triple double” line in Ice Cube‘s “It Was a Good Day.” (Other sources say Lakers PR man Bruce Jolesch coined the term.)

“He was an incredible and passionate man who will be remembered as one of the true icons and treasures in NBA history,” former Warriors player and coach Al Attles said in a statement. “As the league’s statistical guru for decades, Harvey was clearly ahead of his time in statistical analysis and provided years of great service to the Warriors, 76ers and the league. On behalf of the entire Warriors organization, our condolences go out to Harvey’s family and all those who loved him dearly.” Attles was a rookie with the Warriors the year Wilt scored 100 points; he was the team’s second-leading scorer with 17.

In recent years, Pollack smashed the Guinness World Record for most consecutive days wearing a t-shirt.

“He documented NBA history for nearly 70 years with passion, curiosity and a relentless work ethic,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Harvey has been a true caretaker and ambassador of the game, and he will be sorely missed. The entire NBA family sends its deepest condolences to the Pollack family as well as the Philadelphia 76ers organization.”

Pollack grew up in North Philly, graduated from Temple in 1943 and served in World War II. He won the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002 and is a member of the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, among other enshrinements.

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