Philly marker to honor Harvey Pollack, late pioneering NBA stat man


A self-proclaimed “one of a kind,” Harvey Pollack at 91 continues to work courtside at Philadelphia 76ers home games. (Hillel Kuttler)

A self-proclaimed “one of a kind,” Harvey Pollack worked courtside at Philadelphia 76ers home games into his 90s. (Hillel Kuttler)

(JTA) – Harvey Pollack, a pioneering NBA statistician, will be honored posthumously  this spring with a state historical marker in his native Philadelphia.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission approved the nomination on Wednesday, on what would have been Pollack’s 94th birthday. Pollack, who was Jewish, died last June. Until being hospitalized five months earlier, he had worked as director of statistical information for the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers.

He was employed nearly continuously by the team and its predecessor, the Warriors, since the NBA’s earlier incarnation as the Basketball Association of America in 1946 – the last employee in the league with such roots.

Pollack, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, coined the now-standard term “triple-double” and invented such categories as rebounds, steals and blocked shots.

“Basketball developed its own vocabulary because of Mr. Pollack,” said Celeste Morello, a historian in Philadelphia who initiated the nomination. “His system of describing players’ moves was adapted by the NBA and by teams worldwide.”

The date and location of the dedication have not been finalized, but Morello said the NBA suggested it be held in May. She added that the Pollack family wants the marker to be erected near the 76ers’ arena, the Wells Fargo Center, in South Philadelphia.

On March 2, the Sixers gave arriving fans a poster showing Pollack and the late Wilt Chamberlain. The tribute occurred on the 54th anniversary of Chamberlain scoring a league-record 100 points in a Warriors win – an accomplishment celebrated by the now-iconic postgame photograph of Chamberlain holding a paper on which Pollack wrote the number.

Morello also made the case that Pollack’s statistics helped to change the economics of the league and its players.

“Harvey’s stats were really the evidence players needed to know the value of their skills and earn higher salaries,” she said. “That’s why players loved Harvey – because he was able to track everything and show their worth.”

Of the honor, Morello said: “This is a big deal. I’m happy for Harvey. I’m really glad he made it.”