RIP Hal Greer (1936-2018)

His number 15 was the first to be retired by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Franchise legend Hal Greer passed away this weekend at the age of 81, confirmed Monday morning in a team press release:

“The Philadelphia 76ers organization mourns the passing of Hal Greer, an NBA champion, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer and team legend. Throughout his 15-year career with the Syracuse Nationals and Philadelphia 76ers, Greer solidified his place as one of the greatest basketball players ever. An NBA champion in 1967 and 10-time NBA All-Star, Greer’s legacy includes being the 76ers’ all-time leader in points, field goals, field goals attempted, games and minutes played, culminating in him being named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996.”

Greer spent his entire 15-year career with the Nationals and Sixers. A Huntington, West Virginia native, he played four years at his hometown Marshall University before being selected 13th overall in the 1958 NBA draft. He was an All-Star every season from 1961 to 1970 and played alongside Wilt Chamberlain and Billy Cunningham on the Sixers’ 1967 title-winning team.

The list of franchise records is extensive.

He scored 21,586 points, finishing ahead of Allen Iverson, who logged 19,931 as a Sixer. A.I. was on pace to set the new record before his trade to Denver.

Here are the other stats, in a visual format from Basketball Reference. Look at how far ahead Greer is in some categories:

Greer was a 6’2″ guard with a smooth stroke who was probably known for his consistency, above all else. He averaged between 18 and 24 points a season during a stretch that began in 1961 and ended in 1971.

Brian Seltzer touched on Greer’s game in a really nice writeup at Sixers.com:

“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.

Even with a knee brace and thigh wrap, Hal Greer still directing offense later in the early 1970s.

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.”

It’s all true. Greer had a sweet mid-range jumper, though it seems silly to use the term “mid-range” since the three point line didn’t exist when he played. Call it whatever you want; he was incredibly efficient from 10 to 18 feet:

In his NBA.com bio, this section explains a lot about his jump shot and the Sixers’ title-winning team:

His favorite spot to hit from was inside the top of the key. His one-time coach, Alex Hannum, said Greer could sink that shot about 70 percent of the time and encouraged him to take it whenever he had the opportunity. “Hal’s quickness enables him to free himself for the moment of daylight that he needs,” Hannum said. “He’s so good on his jumper that it startles you when he misses.”

Greer played a major role on what many feel was the greatest team of all time, the 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers. That squad, which also included Chamberlain, Chet WalkerBilly Cunningham, Wally Jones, and Lucious Jackson, romped to a 68-13 record, the best in league history at the time until the Los Angeles Lakers went 69-13 in 1971-72 and then the Chicago Bulls’ 72-10 record in 1995-96.

The Sixers, who won 45 of their first 49 games, rolled through the postseason, finally defeating the San Francisco Warriors in six games in the 1967 NBA Finals. For the season, Greer contributed 22.1 ppg, second on the club to Chamberlain’s 24.1. Greer then stepped up his game in the postseason, pouring in 27.7 ppg.

In addition to having his number retired by the franchise, Hal Greer was the first player to be honored with a sculpture on 76ers “Legends Walk” at the Camden training complex. That ceremony took place in May of last year:

The Sixers will celebrate Greer’s life and legacy at tonight’s game at the Wells Fargo Center.

 

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