I’m not going to pretend to know who Harvey Pollack was. I would only hear about an old dude with the Philadelphia 76ers who had been around since the days before Wilt Chamberlain through secondhand channels. Evidently, he was the Bill James of basketball. He was a part of NBA history, a pioneer in his own right.
Stats the NBA began tracking because of Harvey Pollack: • blocks • steals • offensive rebounds • turnovers • minutes played
— Max Rappaport (@MaxRappaport) June 24, 2015
But because of his behind-the-scenes role with the team, his contributions to the game was lost on me. And it took his death for me to finally have an “oh yeah, I remember hearing about this guy!” moment.
Since learning of his death, I’ve had to partake in a crash course on Pollack’s significance to the game. Not surprising about a guy who is credited for being part of the league’s history since its inception, I have barely put a dent on his story and his place in basketball history. It’s so much to take in. The old dude from Philly was more than just a guy who looked at numbers all day. He had a real title:
With a heavy heart, we mourn the loss of Director of Statistical Information Harvey “Super Stat” Pollack at age 93. » http://t.co/NstG7kC8df
— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) June 24, 2015
It’s not the fact that he’s a director for an NBA team. It’s the idea that his impact is so vast and great, he needed a nickname that would fit his contributions to the game. It does not get any better than giving a guy the moniker of “Super Stat.”
The other big event Pollack gets credit for is creating the prop which would ultimately make this photograph iconic:
Wilt 100: Harvey Pollack kept stats, wrote game recap (AP, Philly Inquirer, UPI) & inscribed “100” on paper for Wilt pic.twitter.com/BxBR8mFeCM
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) June 24, 2015
People talk about “keeping it 100,” but Pollack should probably get props for doing it well before it was considered a thing. You know what else he gets credit for? Oh, just something which every, single NBA team utilizes in today’s game:
Eons before analytics became a thing, the first and the best. RIP Harvey Pollack.
— John Hollinger (@johnhollinger) June 24, 2015
But John Hollinger is not the only current NBA guy sharing his condolences as Doug Collins and this year’s NBA Finals MVP, Andre Iguodala also showed their reverence and appreciation to the legendary numbers’ cruncher. And it was also great to see NBA beat writers on Twitter showing their respect for the man they call “Super Stat.”
And of course, an old dude like Pollack, who had been part of the league for a very long time, there will be some really cool stories that will come to light. Do not be surprised if a lot of these tales involve Chamberlain:
This bit on Wilt talking (what turned out to be accurate) smack with Harvey Pollack about Michael Jordan is great pic.twitter.com/QMozV786NM
— Pro Hoops History (@ProHoopsHistory) June 24, 2015
Having regular conversations which lasted for a couple of hours with arguably the greatest player of all time is simply special. Reminds me of the story about Kevin Durant hiring a stats guy to improve his game.
Contrary to popular belief, the game has enough room for both jocks and stat nerds to coexist. Hopefully, Charles Barkley is seeing the outpour of love and support for Pollack. Maybe he’ll finally see the foolishness of his ways and see basketball statistical analytics as a complement to the game he once played in and not as a threat. What’s the one thing we hear about basketball? It only includes, never excludes, right?
Harvey Pollack was loved by both players and coaches. But his contributions to the game were highly valued. My only regret is I was not fully cognizant of his work in a direct manner, but take solace in the idea that maybe I grew to appreciate his impact in a very indirect way. At any rate, now is a good time to continue to look back and see what other remarkable things this man had done for the game. Better late than never, even if it appears to be too late.