The Official Scorer - Bill Mochel
(D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images)
From the scorer’s table at the AT&T Center, Bill Mochel kept a steady right hand while his heart went for a ride. It was Game 5 of the NBA Finals, second period, 8:44 left, No. 4 behind the arc, the ball falling through the net, the crowd exploding with joy.
In the official scorebook, Mochel wrote the number “3” in black ink beside “Danny Green” and circled it. Fifty eight seconds later, Mochel wrote the same digit beside Green’s name and circled it a second time. He would repeat the exercise again and again. By the end of the night, Green would own a distinct place in the scorebook -- six 3-pointers, 24 points -- and history book: 25 3-pointers, most ever in the NBA Finals.
“Circling all those threes felt good,” says Mochel, 72. “You could see the confidence building in Danny. It was unbelievable. I was real excited.”
The Spurs’ 114-104 victory over the Heat was one for the books, all right. There was Green scorching the nets from long distance, Manu Ginobili turning back time and dropping a double-double (24 points, 10 assists), Tony Parker spinning through traffic and scoring a game-high 26 -- and then there was Mochel, quietly recording it all, in his 39th season with the Spurs.
When game officials changed Ginobili’s first basket from a “3” to a “2,” they approached Mochel, the official scorer, to make the correction.
Mochel records field goals and free throws, fouls and timeouts. He has worked on the Spurs’ stats crew since 1974, two years before Tim Duncan was born.
“I would do this for free,” he says. “It’s very special. I get to eat with the media. The pay is commensurate with that of other stat teams in the league. I consider this a privilege. But if they came to me and said, ‘You can’t eat here anymore, and we can’t pay you anymore,’ I’d say, ‘There’s no problem with that. What time do you want me here tomorrow?’”
A friend at a pool party asked Mochel if he’d like to work with the stat crew at a Spurs game. Mochel said, “Sure,” and what an adventure it’s been.
Once, at the old HemisFair Arena, an All-Star forward from Phoenix approached him at the scorer’s table. The player wanted to know why Mochel hadn’t credited him with a rebound.
“Are you watching the game,” Charles Barkley demanded to know. “Are you paying attention?”
Mochel tried to explain that he didn’t record rebounds. Someone else kept that statistic. But Barkley wouldn’t hear it.
Years later, after transitioning into the broadcast booth, they ran into each other outside a locker room at the AT&T Center. Barkley saw Mochel carrying the starting lineup and ripped it from his hands.
“Barkley said, ‘I’m going to tell you who the starters are,’” Mochel recalls, “and he started crossing people off. I’m just standing there in amazement. And then he says, ‘I’m just messing with you, man!”
Mochel counts many ex-players, like Barkley, among his friends. One friendship goes back a long way.
On his first day of work at the old HemisFair Arena, Mochel looked up from the scorers table as a familiar gentleman came by with a quizzical look.
“What are you doing here,” said the man, the father of a star athlete Mochel coached on a YMCA flag football team.
“Keeping the stats, I guess,” Mochel replied.
The flag football dad raised an eyebrow. He hadn’t seen Mochel at the table before. But he would get used to it. The flag football dad played a little basketball, and his jersey now hangs in the AT&T rafters. You may have heard the name. James Silas.
By day, Mochel works as an insurance agent for State Farm. His policy holders include such former Spurs as Silas, Paul Pressey and Johnny Moore. By night, he keeps The Book and feels like a valued member of the Spurs family.
How many other official scorers own a collection of NBA championship rings?
“I haven’t talked to another stat crew that’s got a ring,” Mochel says. “Some have watches or some other remembrance but not a ring. I have four. I’ve got four grandkids and each one is going to get one of the rings that has my name on it.”
Game 5 wore Mochel out. “You talk about up and down,” he says. “We were up 20 points and then that was gone. Ray Allen throws them in from all over the place and then we go back up again. It was a roller coaster ride, circling all those 3s.”
Mochel went home but could not sleep. He watched post-game TV coverage until well past midnight. “I was so worked up,” he says. “That was a very dramatic win for me.”
He doesn’t remember the time. But his eyes grew heavy and he crawled into bed. And then, for the official scorer, it was officially lights out.