You may never have heard of him, but Harvey Pollack is the only person to be continuously employed by the NBA in the 68 years since its founding as the Basketball Association of America. He also has a special bond with someone you probably have heard of: Wilt Chamberlain.
During the six and a half seasons that Chamberlain played for Philadelphia — first the Warriors, then the 76ers — Pollack was Chamberlain’s statistician. They squabbled over rebounding numbers, and each played a role in Chamberlain’s record-setting 100-point night on March 2, 1962. Chamberlain scored the points, and Pollack covered the game; Pollack wrote “100″ on the piece of paper Chamberlain held up for a famous photo commemorating the occasion.
I interviewed Pollack last week about his collaboration with longtime stats hobbyist Dick Pfander, for an article about Pfander and his contribution to the preservation of the NBA’s statistical history. Pfander, age 79, isn’t currently working on NBA stats. Pollack, 13 years older, still is, as the 76ers’ director of statistical information.
Much of his work continues to center on Chamberlain, the former 76ers center. Pollack’s NBA statistical annual carries a comparison of Chamberlain and his great rival, Bill Russell. “We prove Russell had more championships but Wilt was way ahead of him individually,” Pollack said. “That’s a big item that I refer to every year when they say Russell was better than Wilt. He wasn’t better than Wilt. He was better with the Boston Celtics” — because he got to play with far more future Hall of Famers, Pollack said, in an opinion that would be more popular with my FiveThirtyEight colleague Neil Paine than with my Grantland colleague Bill Simmons.
Last month, Pollack got the chance to stick up for Wilt again. Aggravated by articles suggesting that Kevin Durant was closing in on Michael Jordan’s all-time record of 40 straight games with at least 25 points, Pollack spread the word that Chamberlain had scored at least that many in each of the 80 games he played in the 1961-62 season (the one with that 100-point game).
Pollack also went further, and checked if the streak began earlier or ended later. Chamberlain, it turned out, started the next season with 26 straight games of 25 points or more, for a streak of 106 games. (He scored just 24 points in the 27th game of the season.)
“There was a league when Wilt Chamberlain played,” Pollack said. Jordan — and now Durant — had the most in the last 50 years, “but not the most in the history of the league.”
Pollack, who has spent his adult life chronicling other men’s numbers, now has his targets set on a milestone of his own. On June 11, if all goes well, he’ll have worn a different T-shirt every day for 4,000 days. The folks at Guinness World Records have told him the record is his once his streak ends.
“I have about 500 shirts I haven’t worn yet,” Pollack said. “I don’t know if I’m going to outlive the shirts or if the shirts will outlive me.”