Paul Arizin: A True Gentlemen Off the Court
Posted Dec 14 2006 5:51PM
Harvey Pollack, the Philadelphia 76ers Director of Statistical Information, has worked in the NBA since day 1 when it was known as the Basketball Association of America back in 1946. Pollack served as the assistant publicity director for the Philadelphia Warriors and knew Arizin both on and off the court. Pollack shares his memories of the Philadelphia legend.
In my 61 years in the NBA, Iíve met countless players and coaches, but there was none more likable than Paul Arizin who passed away on Wednesday.
Paul not only was a most friendly type but was also one of the most talented players I ever saw play. The NBA has twice cited him for his exploits, first naming him to its 25th anniversary team and then recognizing him as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.
He came out of no where to attain his lofty status at Villanova University. He tried out for his high school team at LaSalle in Philadelphia and he was cut four times by the coach. Then he entered Villanova where his lone activity basketball-wise was as a freshman in the intramural leagues. A friend of Villanova coach Al Severance tipped him off about Arizinís talents and Al went to South Philly to view him play in recreation center action. He was so impressed he asked Paul if he would like to go to Villanova, to which Paul replied, ďIím there already.Ē
That began a collegiate career where he was eventually named The Sporting News Player of the Year in 1949-50 and was a consensus All-American for his deeds in leading the Wildcats to a 25-4 record. He scored 735 points to lead Division I players that season. He scored 85 points in a game, which is still a Villanova record and naturally was the first round or territorial pick of the Philadelphia Warriors in 1950.
That started a brilliant 10-year career that included 16,266 points, MVP of the 1952 All-Star Game, and an NBA title in 1956. He led the league in scoring in the 1951-52 and 1956-57 seasons and his feats eventually led to his selection to the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1978.
Though Paul was afflicted with asthma, it didnít stop him from playing as he raced down the floor coughing. He rarely missed a game in his career which was interrupted by two full years in the U.S. Marines. Despite his health problem, he was a cigar smoker and actually introduced this writer to cigars in 1956.
Paul had four sons and two of them played college basketball at Drexel and LaSalle. He never lost interest in pro basketball and followed the Sixers and Warriors. When the Warriors were sold to San Francisco in 1962, Paul decided not to relocate even though he had 1706 points and a 21.9 points per game scoring average in his last season. He then played three seasons in the Eastern League for the Camden Bullets and led them to the league title.
He was very friendly with Wilt Chamberlain and considered him the greatest player in NBA history. He was also a fine banquet speaker and made frequent appearances for the Warriors to community groups.
The best description I can give him is that I never met a person that didnít like him. He will be missed.