After winning Game 1 of their First-Round series versus the Miami Heat 130-103, hitting a franchise playoff record 18 three-pointers, the Philadelphia 76ers, making their first appearance in the postseason since 2012 came back down to earth on Monday night with a 113-103 setback in Game 2 on Monday night that tied the series 1-1, it pails in comparison to the loss of a Sixers great over the weekend.
On Saturday night, for Sixers guard Harold Everett “Hal” Greer, who spent his entire career with the Sixers, where they began as the Syracuse Nationals passed away on Saturday night in Arizona from a brief illness. He was 81 years old. The 10-time All-Star and seven-time All-NBA Second Team selection is survived by his wife Mayme and their three children, one son and two daughters.
The Sixers made the formal announcement of the passing of Mr. Greer on Monday and prior to the start of Game 2 versus the Heat, he was honored by the fans at Wells Fargo Center with a moment of silence. The team also said that for the remainder of the playoffs, the Sixers players will wear a black armband on the sleeve of their jersey that will also have a small patch with Mr. Greer’s number he wore during his career, the No. 15.
The Sixers said in a statement about the passing of Mr. Greer, “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 goal attempts, games and minutes played, culminating in him being named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996.”
Born on June 26,1983 as mentioned in West Virginia, Greer attend the all African American Douglas Junior and Senior High School in Huntington, where he played guard for the men’s basketball team.
He played collegiately for the Marshall University Thundering Herd Men’s Basketball team, where he became the first African American to play for a public college in West Virginia.
Mr. Greer scored 1,377 points in his collegiate career with the Thundering Herd on 54.5 percent from the field, which set a new school record. He led Marshall to the Mid-American Conference title in 1956, which earned the school their first NCAA Tournament appearance.
When the dust settled on Mr. Greer’s career on the collegiate hardwood, he was named All-Mid-American Conference in 1957 and 1958. He was also named an All-American as well in 1958, his senior year where he averaged 23.6 points per contest. Mr. Greer finished his run at Marshall with averages of 19.4 points and 10.8 rebounds.
He was drafted No. 13 overall in the 1958 NBA draft by the then Syracuse Nationals. In each of his first five seasons with the team, Mr. Greer raised his scoring average to where his highest was 22.8 in 1961, where he made the first of his as mentioned 10 All-Star selections.
When the team moved to the city of “Brotherly Love” in 1963 to become the Philadelphia 76ers, Mr. Greer teamed up with the late Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlin on the 1966-67 team that won the second of three titles in franchise history by beating the San Francisco Warriors in The NBA Finals 4-2. Greer averaged 27.7 points in those 15 postseason games, a team-high.
The Sixers got to the precipice of winning their second of three NBA crowns in franchise history by defeating the mighty Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals in five games. It was the only time that a team led by the late Wilt Chamberlin got past Hall of Famer Bill Russell’s squad.
In his eighth All-Star appearance one-year late, Mr. Greer earned game MVP honors with 21 points on 8 for 8 shooting, with then a record-breaking 19 points in one period as he led the Eastern Conference to a 144-124 win over the Western Conference in the game played in New York, NY.
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of Mr. Greer’s career of 15 seasons with the Nationals/Sixers was being the first player in franchise history to have his jersey retired 32 years ago. On top of that, the Sixers honored Huntington, WV native with a sculpture of him on 76ers Legends Walk at the team’s training complex in 2017.
Mr. Greer finished his 15-year career with the Sixers after the 1972-73 campaign with a then franchise record 21,586 points scored. Today he still leads the Sixers in points scored while also finishing as the Sixers career leader in as mentioned earlier in field goals made and attempted, games and minutes played.
At the 1996 All-Star Game in Cleveland, OH, Mr. Greer earned a position on the National Basketball Association’s (NBA’s) All-Time Team.
As much as he was respected by fans, the Sixers organization and around the NBA for his play on the hardwood, Mr. Greer even more admired and remembered for being a true gentleman that used his platform of basketball to inspire and uplift others.
Former Sixer, fellow Hall of Famer and now NBA on TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley said on the pregame show prior to Game 2 between the Heat and Sixers said that he met Mr. Greer on the number of occasions he did said the one word that many described him was a “gentlemen.”
“Just a wonderful person,” Barkley, who played for the Sixers from 1984-92 said. “Probably got overshadowed in Philadelphia history because of Wilt [Chamberlin], Billy Cunningham and guys like that. Like I said, I got to meet him quite a few times. Just a great person, and it was an honor and privilege to get to know Mr. Greer.”
Pregame lead studio host Ernie Johnson said of Mr. Greer on Monday that what jumped out to him when he got to see him play as a kid when the Sixers came into town to play the Atlanta Hawks back in the 1960s and 1970s that he shot the equivalent of a mini jump shot from the free throw line.
Hall of Famer and four-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and Heat Shaquille O’Neal said the first time he met Mr. Greer was at the 50 Greatest celebration 22 years ago. He knew who Mr. Greer was, but O’Neal was amazed that he knew who he was. When Mr. Greer asked O’Neal if he could sign a poster with all the 50 Greatest players on it, it took him by surprise.
“My condolences go out to his family. We lost a great one today,” O’Neal said on the passing of the Sixers legend.
Fellow TNT studio analyst Kenny Smith made the most important point about Mr. Greer’s impact during his career when he said on Monday is how Mr. Greer paved the way for this generation of NBA players from the money they get paid, to how they travel first class, to even the fact that the National Basketball Association is as inclusive when it comes to the amount of players from not just different states here in the U.S., but different countries.
There was a time where that was unthinkable, to where African American players and their Caucasian counterparts could not even eat in the same restaurants on the road, or even stay in the same hotels. All that changed among many other things thanks to the sacrifice and commitment to a better future from the likes of Mr. Greer.
The 1967 NBA champion Philadelphia 76ers had great players, legendary players, and even Hall of Famers just like many others that came before and after them. Names like the previously mentioned Chamberlin, Chet Walker, Wali Jones, Billy Cunningham, Lucious Jackson. Hal Greer was the lead guard on that team and was just as great as his teammates.
As good as Mr. Greer was on the court, he was as mentioned equally that impressive of a man off the court and had a serious impact on everyone from NBA greats that came after him to fans that saw him play in person to those that watched on television.
Speaking of having an impact on those that love the game of basketball, Mr. Greer in 1980 coached the Philadelphia Kings of the Continental Basketball League (CBL), which was founded in 2009. He also coached the basketball team for Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, PA.
Along with having a serious impact in Philadelphia, Mr. Greer’s hometown of honored his success in 1966 when West Virginia held “Hal Greer Day” by renaming 16th Street, which carries West Virginia Route 10 as the main artery that lies between the campus/downtown area and Interstate 64 as “Hal Greer Blvd.” in 1978.
Seven years later, Mr. Greer was inducted into Marshall University Athletics Hall of Fame for not only his career in basketball, but also in baseball where he played first baseman as a sophomore.
He was a great player on the hardwood both in college and in the pros. He was equally as good a gentleman. Harold Everett Greer left a legacy that has had a lasting impact on not just NBA, but all of humanity in a unique way. He had a unique way of being a great player but found a way to fit in with the team and had an impact on winning a title 51 years ago and showed the true value of being a gamer and leader on-and-off the court. He was able to be a great player and even a greater person.Information, statistics, and quotation are courtesy of 4/16/18 5:30 p.m. of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” with Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser; 4/16/18 8 p.m. edition of TNT’s “NBA Tip-Off,” presented by Autotrader with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and Shaquille O’Neal; 4/16/18 www.nba.com story, “Philadelphia 76ers Hall of Famer Hal Greer Dies at 81;” www.nba.com/sixers/philadelphia-76ers-statement-passing-hal-greer; Sporting News “2006-07 Official NBA Guide;” https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hal_Greer; and https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continential_Basketball_League.