Sixers Mourn The Passing Of Legendary Harvey "Super Stat" Pollack
It is with great sadness that the Philadelphia 76ers announce Harvey Pollack, Sixers Director of Statistical Information and the longest tenured NBA employee, passed away today at the age of 93.
The last original employee of the NBA’s inaugural season to still be working in the league, Pollack was globally renowned as the engineer of modern-day basketball statistics. Pollack was a Northeast Philadelphia native and lifelong area resident, and the patriarch of two children, Linda Gottfried and Ron Pollack, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
“Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the passing of a true NBA legend, Harvey Pollack," said Philadelphia 76ers Chief Executive Officer Scott O’Neil. "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. 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."
Herbert Harvey Pollack was born March 9, 1922 in Camden, New Jersey. His longevity in the Philadelphia area—and professional basketball—is unparalleled. All of his near 70 basketball seasons occurred in The City of Brotherly Love.
Pollack was a 1943 graduate of Temple University and served in the United States Army during World War II. He took his first job after returning from the war as a sportswriter for the Philadelphia Bulletin.
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. After six and half seasons, Pollack was promoted to head of media relations.
On March 2, 1962, Philadelphia Warriors center Wilt Chamberlain set the NBA single-game scoring record with 100 points in a victory over the New York Knicks. Harvey Pollack was a rare eyewitness of this historic feat. The legendary postgame photo of Chamberlain was made possible by Pollack, who scribbled the iconic “100” on a white piece of paper.
Later in 1962, the Warriors relocated to San Francisco, CA. Though there was no NBA franchise in Philadelphia in 1962-63, Pollack continued as the public relations contact for neutral site games.
The Syracuse Nationals franchise moved to Philadelphia prior to the 1963-64 season and became the 76ers. Pollack was named the team’s media relations director and held that title until the 1987-88 season. He then began his 28-year tenure as director of statistical information.
The only person to possess all four Philadelphia professional basketball championship rings, Pollack earned two with the Warriors (1946-47 and 1955-56) and two with the Sixers (1966-67 and 1982-83).
“Why should I retire?” Pollack once said. “What should I do? Sit home and twiddle my thumbs?”
Over the course of a career that spanned eight different decades, Pollack amassed many awards and honors, including more than a dozen separate Hall of Fame inductions. In 2002, The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame awarded Pollack the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award. It is the highest honor bestowed to an individual outside of Enshrinement.
Pollack’s statistical analyses were revolutionary and changed the way statistics are monitored and recorded in professional sports. Nicknamed “Super Stat” in 1966 by Philadelphia Bulletin sportswriter George Kiseda, Pollack is credited with beginning the league’s official tracking of offensive and defensive rebounds, steals, turnovers, blocked shots and minutes played, among other statistics—some very untraditional for their time.
He began tracking many categories even before the league formally recognized them. These included 48-minute stat projections, plus-minus evaluations, distances of field goals, four-point plays, dunks and more. It was during the 1979-80 NBA season that Pollack coined the term “triple-double” to describe the unique statistical feats of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Magic Johnson.
The Harvey Pollack NBA Statistical Yearbook was among the most distinguished compilations in the sports business. For nearly half a century, Pollack and his staff annually assembled hundreds of pages of assorted statistics, trends, trivia and observations. Unique topics included but were certainly not limited to the following:
-Little-Known First Names of Nicknamed Players and Coaches
-Most Three Second Violations
-Most Tattoos by Team and Individual Leaders
-Loose Ball Foul Leaders
-Leaders in Delay of Game Violations
-Biggest All-Time Scoring Leads and Deficits
-Most Accurate Technical Foul Shooters
-Heaviest and Tallest NBA Teams
-Left-handed NBA Players
-Most Minutes Played without a Turnover
-Frequency of Personal Fouls
-Top Playoff Crowds (Attendance)
-Best Performers in Crunch Time
Also included were detailed accounts of the American Basketball Association, father-son duos, history of the NBA salary cap, most frequently traded individuals—even a record of preseason, regular season and postseason fines assessed to players.
Another example of Pollack’s ingenuity is the “Pivotal Player Rating”, which he based on a detailed formula. For this category, Pollack ranked the top 120 NBA players for “all around contributions to a team’s success.” His “Pivotal Player” formula breakdown:
To be sure, these are only a few examples of the observations and obscurities Pollack noted and tracked. Harvey Pollack’s Statistical Yearbook included, in a word, everything.
Pollack made an enormous impact in collegiate athletics as well. At one point, he headed stat crews at six major Philadelphia-area colleges simultaneously and was Temple University’s football statistician for over 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 Baltimore Colts of the National Football League for 15 seasons.
Harvey Pollack’s icon stretched beyond the sports arena. He regularly screened movies and wrote reviews. He penned a weekly entertainment column for The County Press. Pollack also served as a judge for Philadelphia’s annual New Year’s Day Mummers Parade.
His affinity for the unusual also exceeded the world of statistics. For more than a decade, Pollack had been pursuing a Guinness World Record by wearing a different T-shirt each day. On June 29, 2003 began his quest to break the record and had worn more than 4,000 different shirts to date. Pollack then donated the T-shirts to local, national and international organizations after wearing them.
Pollack’s legacy is carried on by his son Ron, who has been a fixture on the Sixers stats crew for more than 50 seasons and, like Harvey, is heavily involved throughout much of the statistical sports scene in Philadelphia.