NBA stat men with historic markers: 1 (Harvey Pollack)

051916_pollack-marker_1200
The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, The National Basketball Association place a historic marker at Xfinity Live in Philadelphia for the late Harvey Pollack.

AS YOU MAKE the way into Xfinity Live! from the Wells Fargo Center, you pass a statue of Gary Dornhoefer scoring the Flyers' first-ever overtime goal, against the Minnesota North Stars in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series in 1973, and propelling the franchise to its first playoff series win. There's Kate Smith in the middle of "God Bless America," the Flyers' good-luck charm during their Stanley Cup runs of 1974 and 1975. There's also one of Julius Erving, ball high above his head in his right hand, legs bent and ready for flight.

And as of Thursday, stat man Harvey Pollack is among them.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, along with the NBA, dedicated an official historic marker for Pollack, who died last June after a New Year's Day car accident that year.

The plaque led by describing Pollack as "Innovator of basketball statistics and player evaluation." But he was so much more than that to Philadelphia.

"He would agree with the placement," joked Ron Pollack, a part of his father's statistical staff for the Sixers. "He'd be very proud and surprised. He'd accept it and be very thankful and appreciate that he is being appreciated for what he'd done. He did a lot. People take it for (granted) now when we're keeping statistics. But back when he started, nobody thought of keeping turnovers or blocks and a myriad of other stats.

"We're all proud and humbled by this. It happened so quickly and (gotten) so much attention. It's a permanent remembrance to him and his work."

For the many statistical inventions attached to Harvey Pollack, he is best known for his penning "100" on a piece of paper and handing it to Wilt Chamberlain to pose with, following his 100-point effort on March 2, 1962. The resulting image is among the most iconic sports photos of all time.

"The thing that was amazing about what he accomplished, he was such an innovator," Sixers great Billy Cunningham said. "Just think of all the jobs that he created. He's created analytics. He's created all the sports writers that have all the information at their fingertips. When you watch TV (and all the stats they talk about), that's Harvey Pollack. There was no such thing as a blocked shot when I started playing basketball. He had everything broken down to the point where it would drive you crazy.

"During the Wilt Chamberlain era, Wilt was very upset with Harvey. He thought he was getting more rebounds than Harvey was giving him credit for. So he had an old friend, Wilt's dearest friend, Vince Miller. He asked Vince to keep the stats. A few nights later, we played a game and Wilt asked Vince, 'How many rebounds did I have?' Vince said 24. 'Harvey, how many?' Harvey said 26. Wilt said, 'Vince, you're fired, Harvey you're back in business.' "

He was in business until that New Year's Day crash, constantly finding new statistics and ways to make mundane ones more informative.

"He started the blocked-shots stat," Ron Pollack said, "but when everybody started keeping that, he wanted to go a new way, so he started keeping whose shots got blocked."

"Harvey was just always fascinating to be around," said Pat Williams, the former Sixers general manager who now is senior vice president of the Orlando Magic. "His joy, his passion for what he was doing . . . He was gleeful when he would come across some new idea or some new stat thought. Literally, you could see him rubbing his hands together with glee. I loved it. It was his passion and his energy and his enthusiasm for this part of the game. He couldn't get enough of it. It was an amazing thing that, at 92, he was still going strong. That's why his death is so shocking and so upsetting."

And why Thursday's dedication was so uplifting, as a part of Pollack will forever watch over the Wells Fargo Center.


cooneyb@phillynews.com

@BobCooney76

Blog: philly.com/Sixersblog