The NBA lost one of its pioneers yesterday, as Harvey Pollack, who had been a 76ers employee since 1963 and involved with professional basketball in Philadelphia since 1946, passed away. Pollack served as the Sixers' Director of Statistical Information until his death and is credited as being an innovator in terms of recording and tracking basketball statistics for eight decades.
Pollack, a native Philadelphian who worked with both the Warriors and the Sixers when they played in the city, as well as nearly every other professional and collegiate team in town, attempted to fill in the gaps of how statistics were kept in basketball. When you look at George Mikan's Basketball-Reference page and gaze upon so many empty columns and then see how almost every aspect of the game is quantified to see some degree today, it's important to remember Pollack as a voice in shepherding that cause for more information and availability.
The statistics that Pollack began recording include "48-minute stat projections, plus-minus evaluations, distances of field goals, four-point plays [and] dunks," according to the NBA's news release about his unfortunate passing, as well as minutes played, shots blocked, rebounds, steals, assists, turnovers and triple-doubles. What in the world would the basketball community be arguing about all day if it wasn't for Pollack?
During his previously mentioned stint with the Warriors, which even predates the NBA itself (!), Pollack was in attendance for the most famous statistical performance in the game's history: Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game on March 2, 1962. It was Pollack who helped track Chamberlain's record-breaking output that evening against the Knicks. Pollack grabbed a piece of paper following the game, wrote "100" on it and gave it to Wilt, leading to possibly the most iconic picture, and maybe even moment, in the sport's history.
It's so fitting that in a city where basketball statistics were given life, Sam Hinkie reigns as the Sixers' general manager, using his analytically-bent philosophy to attempt to restore the franchise to those all glorious heights that Pollack recorded and saw for years. The next time you get excited for Nerlens Noel to flirt with a 5x5 game or for Jerami Grant to rack up eight blocks, remember Pollack's contributions to making such marks even possible.