Have you ever sat in the back of your math class and thought, “When will I ever use this?” You use math more often than you think. Whether you realize it or not, math plays an integral role in the sports world. All the statistics, facts and figures you use in your everyday conversations about your favorite players and teams are all derived using math.
One man that has helped us to easily rattle off these statistics, and has parlayed his affinity for math and numbers into a 62 year NBA career is Harvey Pollack.
Harvey Pollack started out as the Manager for the Men’s Basketball Team at Temple University during the 1942-43 season. One of his duties while travelling with the team was to keep the scorebook that kept the home team honest.
“After the first game, I went to the Coach and said, ‘This is too easy’,” said Pollack. “I am just keeping field goals, personal fouls and foul shots. I can keep much more.”
And he did. He was one of the first people to start tracking statistics that are now commonplace in basketball these days – rebounds, blocked shots, steals, etc.
When the NBA was formed in 1946-47, Pollack had his reputation for keeping statistics and was offered a job with the local franchise, the Philadelphia Warriors. This is where Pollack started to make his mark and change the sport.
“Back in the early days there were no media guides,” reminisced Pollack. “They were optional. No one really had records of their own team. So I started doing it for the Warriors (from the very beginning).”
A few years later, the categories that Pollack tracked regularly (minutes played, blocked shots, steals, etc.) were adopted by the league to be tracked by all teams.
Once the NBA started to keep track of those stats, Pollack began to track other numbers. He puts out his own media guide each year that is now over 280 pages.
“The NBA keeps blocked shots. I keep whose shot gets blocked,” said Pollack.
Besides revolutionizing the way that we discuss the game, Pollack has been bestowed such honors as being honored by the Basketball Hall of Fame with the John Bunn Award. He’s also the only person to have all four rings won by Philadelphia basketball teams.
Pollack has always loved math, but wasn’t a complete and total whiz.
“I was always good in numbers, until I got to trigonometry. That baffled me,” quipped Pollack.
So the next time you are sitting in your math class wondering when you are ever going to have to use this, it’s best to pay close attention, because what you are learning may just help you get into the Basketball Hall of Fame.