|Philly's Pollack has kept track of NBA from the start|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 18 April 2008 10:59|
For a man who's never without a trivia question, here's one for ol' Harv: What took so long for a nickname?
``I think they wanted to make sure I'd stick around,'' the 86-year-old Pollack said with a laugh.
Pollack earned the ``Super Stat'' moniker sometime in the 1966-67 season, or nearly 20 years after he started working for the Philadelphia Warriors in the NBA's very first season. That makes Pollack truly an original. Now with the 76ers, he's the only original NBA employee still working for one of the 30 teams.
He was courtside when Wilt scored 100. He coined the term ``triple-double.'' Pollack's the only person in all of Philadelphia's deep, and mostly titleless, sports history known to ever wear four championship rings.
And his most famous number might be the one he scrawled on a piece of paper instead of typed for one of his books.
Pollack has done more than witness NBA history, he's recorded it. Every step, blocked shot, technical foul and any other mundane or marvelous stat conceivable - and plenty never dreamed of - along the way for the last six decades.
``I don't have a favorite stat,'' Pollack said. ``I like to keep stats, period.''
All the statistics and potpourri an NBA fan could ever try and use are kept in ``Harvey Pollack's Statistical Yearbook,'' nearly 300 pages stuffed with info on slams, streaks, standings and steals. Did you know LeBron James led the league in driving dunks (36) last season, Dwight Howard led in alley-oop dunks (52) and Kobe Bryant in reverse dunks (10)? Did you know dunks were even separated into eight rim-rattling categories?
``People today are very statistical-minded and he's one of the reasons they are,'' said Al Shrier, who has worked for 50-plus years in Temple's sports information department.
That includes players, and a fan of the book, like Phoenix Suns center Shaquille O'Neal.
``Whenever I get the ball in my little high percentile ground, I'm always going to score six out of 10 times,'' O'Neal said. ``Lifetime. Sixty percent. That's what my main man Harvey Pollack told me.''
When he works in his Philadelphia home, Pollack still plugs away at a typewriter in his kitchen, not much different than the one he lugged to Hershey, Pa., on March 6, 1962, when Wilt Chamberlain scored a record 100 points against the Knicks.
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 now joins Pollack on the Sixers stat crew, ran the copy to Western Union. When the game was over, Pollack stuffed the ball (since lost) in Chamberlain's duffel bag and organized a famed photo.
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 to hold for the classic black-and-white snapshot.
Here's another of Pollack's Chamberlain stories from the night the 76ers beat the now San Francisco Warriors to win the 1966-67 championship.
``I come back to my room and I see a line (of women) in front of Wilt's room. All ages, all colors,'' Pollack said. ``I walked by and Wilt opened the door. I don't even know if he saw me, but he says, 'Next.' If he had 20,000, he got a bundle that night.''
For the record, the number of Chamberlain's sexual conquests, he claimed 20,000, is one stat Pollack never tracked.
That title gave Pollack his third ring, joining the ones he received with the Warriors in 1946-47 and 1955-56. He won his fourth with the 1982-83 76ers.
Almost all other facts (Boston's Chris Ford hit the NBA's first 3-pointer) and figures (Toronto led the NBA in 8-second violations last year) are recorded in his book.
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.
But the book was still full of fun facts from around the league and Pollack's NBA stats shared space in the team's media guide until his first yearbook in 1994-95.
``If there are numbers and stats, Harvey will be there,'' said 76ers PR director Mike Preston.
If there's a basketball game in Philadelphia, Pollack and his stat crew, which also includes his son and grandson, are usually on press row.
His super stats can be read after most college games, Arena Football, professional lacrosse, and he even tracks the float results for the Mummer's Parade, a century-old New Year's Day tradition often described as the city's Mardi Gras. Pollack also ran the stat crew for the Baltimore Colts.
No wonder Pollack is in the Hall of Fame.
Scratch that. Make it 12 Halls of Fame.
His house is like an NBA history channel, with Hall of Fame plaques, honors, and books serving as a shrine to the game he loves. There are pictures of him with everyone from Boston's Larry Bird to Sesame Street's Big Bird, and another of one of his favorite player, Julius Erving.
Erving's arrival in Philadelphia started Pollack's fascination with dunk stats, and Magic Johnson's amazing games made Pollack realize he needed a catchy title for double digits in points, rebounds and assists.
The triple-double was born.
Johnson was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2002, the same year Pollack was the recipient of the Hall's John Bunn Award, given annually for lifetime contributions to the game of basketball.
``I walked up to Magic and said, 'You know, without me you wouldn't even be here today,''' Pollack said. ``He says, 'What do you mean?' I said, 'Who do you think coined the name triple-double and made you famous for doing it?' Now it's a regular stat. He thanked me.''
Here's perhaps Pollack's most astounding stat: He's trying to reach a Guinness World Record by wearing a different T-shirt every day. He's up to 1760-plus and counting in a streak that dates to June 2003.
76ers and Flyers chairman Ed Snider holds a slim lead in the back-and-forth fight for most shirts donated over Saint Joseph's athletic director Don DiJulia.
``I cleaned out my closets and still have new shirts given to me constantly that I give to Harvey,'' Snider said.
The one number Pollack hasn't jotted down is the number of years he wants to keep working.
Pollack balances his career in sports with one in entertainment, and still writes a column for a suburban weekly. When's he not keeping tabs on rebound leaders of opponents missed field goals (Kevin Garnett, 720 in 2006-07), Pollack reviews restaurants, concerts, or traveling Broadway shows. He did the circus this week.
``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.''
Especially not when there's a fresh box score to pick apart in ways never considered until Harvey Pollack came along.