The Historical Society of Pennsylvania unveiled a marker to honor the life and work of Harvey Pollack, the man affectionately known as “Super Stat,” who died June 23, 2015 at 93.
In Judaism, the unveiling ceremony dedicating the gravesite is usually performed 11 months after a person’s death. The headstone or marker is covered until that time, then revealed before friends and family.
So it was perfectly fitting that on May 19 the Historical Society of Pennsylvania unveiled a marker to honor the life and work of Harvey Pollack, the man affectionately known as “Super Stat,” who died June 23, 2015 at 93.
Basketball luminaries like Billy Cunningham, Pat Williams and World B. Free were on hand outside Xfinity Live across from the Wells Fargo Center. That was fitting, too, since those same grounds were the site of the Spectrum, which Pollack called home for decades.
“Innovator of basketball statistics and player evaluation. NBA statistician from 1946 to 2014 with the Philadelphia Warriors and 76ers,” proclaimed the blue marker, which was unveiled by Pollack’s son, Ron, and daughter, Linda. “Known as ‘Super Stat,’ he revolutionized analysis by creating categories such as rebounds, assists and turnovers. A Temple graduate, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. His annual NBA statistical guide was in demand worldwide.”
As the NBA’s longest-tenured employee, having served the league — including both the Warriors and 76ers — since its 1946 inaugural season, Pollack stories have become legendary.
Among them is the night he literally did it all on March 2, 1962 — when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in Hershey. Not only did Pollack compile the statistics during that game, he wrote the wire service stories for both the Associated Press and United Press International, since no reporters were on hand.
But the pièce de résistance came in the immediate aftermath when just before a photographer was about to take a picture, Pollack grabbed a piece of paper and wrote the number “100” on it for Chamberlain to hold. That picture and that sign has since become iconic.
Yet, as the marker notes, it was hardly Pollack’s only contribution to the game.
“He was scientifically observing ball players with certain moves, which he put into categories, in his system,” said Celeste Morello of the Historical Society, who nominated him and said that usually 75 percent of nominees are rejected. “It was Harvey’s ingenious way of seeing basketball and assigning statistical information with it. In addition, Harvey’s basketball jargon, with words like slam dunk, created vocabulary for Webster’s Dictionary.
“So, Harvey’s impact is worldwide.”
Pollack’s marker becomes the latest among more than 2,400 historical markers in Pennsylvania.
“These markers chronicle the people, places and events that have made this commonwealth notable,” said Heather Hu, executive director of the Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation. “The historical marker program began in 1946. Each marker establishes an important link to our past. They speak to us and to many future generations.”
They’ll hear about a man who created many of the statistics and basketball lexicon that has become commonplace, including the triple-double, blocked shots, plus-minus ratio (for how a team performs while a player is on the court) as well as breaking down rebounds into offensive and defensive categories.
“The thing that was amazing about what he accomplished — he was such an innovator,” said Cunningham, a Hall of Fame player in the 1960s and 1970s before becoming the Sixers coach, leading them to the franchise’s last championship in 1983. “When you watch TV [and listen to all the stats they reference], 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.”
Pollack’s also in Guinness World Records for wearing a different T-shirt for more than 4,000 consecutive days.
That record endured until he suffered massive injuries in a 2015 New Year’s Day parking garage crash following the Mummers Parade, from which he never recovered.
With the unveiling of the historical marker, Pollack’s life has now been immortalized. It’s a life worth emulating, according to Sixers President Scott O’Neil.
“If you think about living your life half as full as Harvey did, I’d say you lived a pretty good one,” said O’Neil, who noted that he’ll “forever be part of the Sixers family.”