Harvey Pollack Is Basketball's Ultimate Numbers Man

Philadelphia Sixers Stats Guru Still Going Strong at 91

courtesy of nba

By Hillel Kuttler

Published December 27, 2013.
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He’s loved sports since growing up with his immigrant parents, Louis and Rebecca, both dressmakers, on Dauphin Street, in the northeast section of Philly, not far from where he now makes his home. The family lived a few blocks from Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics, and Pollack and his friends would sneak into the baseball games there with youth groups admitted for free.

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. “There’s no clone of me hanging around, so I’m one of a kind.”

Employing Harvey hyperbole is as acceptable for ex-76ers as Pollack’s flaunting prohibitions against staffers asking players for autographs, which he does for his interns.

“When you mention ‘dinosaur,’ you’ve got to put his picture next to it,” says Hall of Famer Julius Erving. “He’s refused to become extinct.”

Erving’s former 76ers frontcourt mate, Bobby Jones, offers, “People say that athletes are freaks of nature, but he may be, too.”

Larry Brown, the one-time Sixers coach who was inducted into the Naismith Hall with Pollack in 2002, says discussing NBA history with Pollack is “like going to graduate school.” To Jim Lynam, also an ex-76ers coach, Pollack is “a gem … one of a kind.”

Moments before a 76ers game earlier this month against the Los Angeles Clippers, Pollack, sporting a full gray mane and slightly stooped over, ambles down the corridor from his cramped office — one littered with papers and paraphernalia — settles into his scorer’s table seat, straps on earphones and a microphone, and goes to work.

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. On the night of Chamberlain’s wondrous game in Hershey, Pa., it was Ron who ran copy to the Western Union desk for transmittal to the wire services.

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.

But Pollack’s basketball work extends beyond courtside. Silver’s “encyclopedia” metaphor is literal, too, since the “Harvey Pollack NBA Statistical Yearbook,” published annually since 1966, remains a staple of offices throughout the league.


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