Fittingly, Harvey Pollack was the one who scribbled the number 100 on the most famous photograph in basketball history: Wilt Chamberlain holding the piece of paper signifying his astounding point total in a 1962 game for the then Philadelphia Warriors.
After all, Pollack is basketball’s ultimate numbers and public relations man.
But the scrawling is hardly Pollack’s sole legacy in a nearly seven-decade career in basketball. He was the first to track a player’s blocked shots, rebounds, minutes played and dunks. The term “triple-double” for a player netting 10 or more points, rebounds and assists in a game — Pollack’s doing. These days he even charts which NBA players sport tattoos.
Pollack is the Philadelphia 76ers’ director of statistical information, a paltry title for the unofficial historian of all things throughout the National Basketball Association’s existence.
“The word ‘legend’ doesn’t appropriately describe Harvey,” NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver tells JTA. “He’s really the heart and soul of the 76ers, a walking encyclopedia of NBA history and a testament to the family nature of this league.”
Pollack remains a Philadelphia courtside fixture, scrupulously keeping each game’s statistics without so much as eyeglasses to assist. Pollack, in fact, predates the NBA, going back to the Warriors’ Basketball Association of America debut in 1946.
Not even Philadelphia’s basketball-orphan status during the 1962-63 season — the Warriors moved to San Francisco and the 76ers had not arrived from Syracuse — could interrupt Pollack’s 68-year tenure in pro basketball: That season he handled public relations for NBA doubleheaders.
The native Philadelphian has outlived his wife of 58 years, his four siblings, three basketball arenas, the many newspapers for which he wrote and even Chamberlain. He’s at his 76ers office daily and works every home game, a must greet for referees and opposing coaches, players and trainers. Non-game nights he
attends movie screenings and theater
performances and visits restaurants for a society column he has penned for decades.
Pollack is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and several others, but the ultimate tribute may have been the 76ers presenting fans with a Harvey bobblehead a few years back.
He’s loved sports since growing up with his immigrant parents, Louis and Rebecca, both dressmakers, in northeast Philly, not far from where he now lives. The family lived a few blocks from Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team.
But basketball has been Pollack’s preferred sport since his senior year at Temple University, when he served as the hoop squad’s manager and started logging statistics the coach hadn’t thought to keep.
“They call me the last of the Mohicans because I’m the only one left in the league since [the NBA] started,” he says.
He long ago developed an intricate code to convey information to a colleague across the court for input into a desktop computer.
The colleague recording the data for statistical posterity? His 67-year-old son, Ron, who has worked with dad since 1962.
Ron’s son Brian, 40, works nearly every game with them from near the basket, calling out turnovers and substitutions. Not even the elder Pollack can monitor everything.
Besides basketball, Pollack’s No. 1 is Reba Greenberg Meyers, a 91-year-old widow known as Ritzi. They began dating in 2004, set up by a mutual friend. For one with a hard drive’s memory, Pollack hadn’t realized till their first daate that she belonged to his Simon Gratz High School Class of 1939.