Hal Greer | 1936 – 2018

Everything Hal Greer did in the NBA was with the Philadelphia 76ers and Syracuse Nationals. 

Every dribble. Every pass. Every jump shot. Every foul. Every drop of sweat. Every steal. Every win. Every loss. Every screen. Every miss. Every practice. Every disappointment. Every success. Every minute. Every game. 

He’s the franchise leader by a wide margin in games played with over 1100. He’s even further ahead when it comes to minutes played with nearly 40,000. With over 21,000 points, Greer is also the franchise leader in points scored. 

Whether it was in Syracuse or Philadelphia, no one player gave as much over as long a period a time for the franchise as Hal Greer.  

The modest, 6’2” guard was a consistent scorer averaging between 18 and 24 PPG every season from 1961 to 1971 thanks to his remarkable mid-range jumper. The jump shot was so smooth, he even took his free throws as jumpers. Greer also played 1003 of a possible 1037 games in this stretch. That kind of scoring and that kind of dependability meant upon Greer’s retirement in 1973, he was the NBA’s all-time leader in games played while placing fourth in minutes played and fifth in points scored. 

Hal was more than just a shooter, though. He was a crafty passer averaging four assists per game. He set picks off the ball that peeled defenders away from their assignment. He slyly dashed to the open spots in the half court to let loose his mid-range jumper. His handle allowed him to penetrate all the way to the basket or stop-and-pop on a dime. He bodied up on the boards and averaged five rebounds a game, despite his small stature. He gamely played through what seemed like a perpetually bad hamstring. 

Seriously, look at any photo of Mr. Greer from his career and he’s likely to have his thigh wrapped up tight.

Hal never made the All-NBA 1st Team thanks to the omnipotent Jerry West and Oscar Robertson, but he did tally seven consecutive All-NBA 2nd Team appearances and ten straight All-Star games including All-Star Game MVP honors in 1968. By these measures and more, you’re talking about one of the greatest players in the history of basketball. 

Greer’s NBA career began in 1959 with the Syracuse Nationals, the smallest of the NBA’s markets at the time. Perennial All-Star Dolph Schayes commanded what little attention Syracuse received from national sports media. Schayes was also still in command as the Nationals best player. However, the quiet guard from West Virginia, broke out in 1961 and replaced Schayes as the club’s premier option. The Nationals were never a one-man band though. Greer and Schayes could depend on such stellar players like Larry Costello, Johnny “Red” Kerr, Dave Gambee, Al Bianchi, and Chet Walker. 

When the franchise moved to Philadelphia for the 1963-64 season, other great teammates would come along: Wali Jones, Billy Cunningham, Luke Jackson, and Archie Clark to name just a few. 

The big addition, of course, was Wilt Chamberlain whose presence created a devastating one-two punch with Greer. The shooting guard’s skills as an off-ball screener and pick-and-pop shooter were perfect for Chamberlain’s little-heralded passing skills, particularly after Alex Hannum arrived to coach the team for the 1966-67 season. 

As the 76ers tore through the regular season that year with 68 wins, Greer saved his best for the postseason. In the playoffs, Hal unleashed 28 points a night. The average made him the team’s leading scorer as they secured the franchise’s first title in Philadelphia. 

After that championship run, Greer would go on to play six more seasons with the 76ers contributing his usual moxie of mean screens, jumpers, and cunning passes. His final season, 1972-73, was the infamous year Philly went 9-73. Sticking around for that record mark of futility was oddly fitting, though.  

After all, the venerable guard had seen pretty much every fortune and misfortune during his 15-year career. He was with the team through some of its best days in Syracuse and its departure from New York StateTransplanted to Philadelphia, he was with the club’s initial struggles to attract fans. Four years later Greer basked in the glow of championship glory and a then-record of 68 regular season wins. He saw the franchise at its highest height and its lowest low. All the while, he was a linchpin of professionalism. 

And as we take stock of the persistent and inexorable career of Hal Greer, remember… 

Every dribble. Every pass. Every jump shot. Every foul. Every drop of sweat. Every steal. Every win. Every loss. Every screen. Every miss. Every practice. Every disappointment. Every success. Every minute. Every game. 

Everything Hal Greer did in the NBA was with this franchise. 

We were lucky to have it that way. 

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