Basketball

Marshall, Sixers great Hal Greer dies

on

PHILADELPHIA — Hal Greer, a Hall of Fame guard and the Philadelphia 76ers’ career leading scorer, has died. The Sixers said Greer died Saturday night in Arizona after a brief illness. Harold Everett “Hal” Greer, was 81 at the time of his death, born in Huntington, W.Va. as the youngest of nine children of railroad engineer William Greer on June 26, 1936.

Greer spent 15 seasons with the Syracuse Nationals and Philadelphia 76ers and finished his career with a record 21,586 points — still 65th all-time in the National Basketball Association. He’s also the 76ers’ career leader in field goals (8,504), field goals attempted (18,811), games (1,122) and minutes played (39,788), while also pulling 5,665 rebounds and dishing 4,540 assists in his career.
Greer was the first player to have his number retired (#15) by the 76ers in 1976. Greer also became the first player to be honored with a sculpture on 76ers Legends Walk at the team training complex in 2017. He averaged 19.2 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game and 4.0 assists per game in his career in the NBA. He also averaged 20.4 points per game in 92 playoff games, shooting 42.5% from the floor and 81.2% on free throws, pulling 5.5 rebounds per game.
Greer led the Sixers in scoring from 1961-66, five seasons in a row, and averaged over 20 points per game from 1963 thought 1970. He shot 45% from the floor and 80% from the line in his pro career.

Greer made 10 straight All-Star games and earned All-Star Game MVP honors in 1968 — hitting 8-of-8 from the field on the way to 21 points in 17 minutes on the court. He was also the second-leading scorer on Philadelphia’s NBA championship team of 1966-67 (including Wilt Chamberlain, Billy Cunningham, Larry Costello, Chet Walker, and Luke Jackson) and would earn a spot on the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996. He is Marshall’s only member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., after being the 13th overall pick by the Nationals in the 1958 draft when his college coach, Jule Rivlin, recommended Greer to Syracuse Nationals coach Paul Seymore — who played for Rivlin at Toledo.
“Hurrying Hal, as he was called in college, played at Marshall as a hometown hero from Huntington Douglas High School, the “black” high school in Huntington, where he had led the team to the State Negro Boys Basketball Championship in 1954. He was signed by Marshall legendary coach Cam Henderson for the year of 1954-55, the year of the Brown v. Board of Education case in front the US Supreme Court and ruled “separate but equal” schools were unconstitutional in May of 1954. Henderson signed Douglas that summer, but never coached him as illness forced the coach to retire after Greer’s first year of playing on the freshman team (NCAA ruled at that time first year players were ineligible. That rule was dropped the mid-1970s).

Greer He is the first African-American to be signed at Marshall, within the state of West Virginia (among non-HBCU schools) and is believed to be the first to sign and play three seasons of varsity Division I college basketball in any state south of the Mason-Dixon Line. As a junior and senior, he averaged a double-double for the season and, in Huntington, 16th Street (running through the historic black community in Huntington where Greer grew up) is named Hal Greer Boulevard, coming after his HOF election in 1981.

Greer’s number at Marshall (#16) is retired and he was in the first class of basketball players inducted into the Marshall University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1985. He also was elected to the West Virginia Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 1978. Greer’s legacy includes being a Mid-American Conference MVP in 1958, an All-MAC selection, team captain, and honorable mention AP All-American as a senior. As a sophomore in 1955-56, Greer helped Coach Jule Rivlin coach the Herd to it’s only MAC Championship, and first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, along with fellow Herd HOF members like Charlie Slack, Cebe Price, and Jack Freeman, his co-captain in 1958.

He led Marshall to second place finishes in the MAC in both 1956-57 and 1957-58. Greer was joined those two seasons by Freeman and another Huntington native, Leo Byrd, those two years.

Greer finished with 1,377 points in three seasons at Marshall (21st all-time), pulled 765 rebounds (9th), led Marshall and the MAC in field goal percentage all three seasons — 2nd in the NCAA in 1955-56 at 60.0% and 5th in the NCAA in 1957-58 at 54.6% — and led Marshall in rebounding in both 1956-57 and 1957-58. He also led MU and the MAC in free throw percentage as a senior, hitting 83.3% (16th best all-time at MU, on 95-of-114) as he shot those free throws with a jump shot.
Greer’s field goal percentage of 61.5 % as a sophomore on the 1955-56 team is still second best in a season to only Rodney Holden’s 63.3% shooting in 1986-87 as a junior. Greer pulled 332 rebounds in 1956-57 as a junior, tenth all-time, as is his rebound average that year of 13.8 per game. As a senior, his 23.6 points per game is 13th best at Marshall.
During his senior year, he pulled his only 20-20 game at Marshall, with 35 points and 21 rebounds versus Morris Harvey College (today’s University of Charleston – W.Va.) on December 21, 1957. As a junior and senior, he averaged a double-double per game at 18.9 points and 13.8 rebounds for 1956-57 and then 23.6 points and 11.7 rebounds per game in 1957-58.
Greer also played baseball for the Thundering Herd, and is believed to be the first player of color to play on the campuses of the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, VMI and Washington & Lee, on a Marshall spring trip his sophomore season.
The Sixers said Greer was survived by his wife Mayme, a son and two daughters.

(The Associated Press and the book: African-American Sports Greats: A Biographical Dictionary, edited by David L. Porter, both contributed to this story)

#####################################

Hal Greer, Sixers and Marshall great, dies.

PHILADELPHIA — 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 1,100. 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 State. Transplanted 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.

About Woody Woodrum

Senior Editor and columnist/writer for Herd Insider since 2003, with Kindred Communications on radio for Marshall football/men's basketball pregame and postgame shows since 1996 and with First Sentry Bank Sportsline (Also Scott on Sports, Sideline Sports and Herd Insider Sportsline) since 1997. Married to Liz (12-22-1990) and one son, Tre' (11-7-1997). National Sportswriters & Sportscasters West Virginia Broadcaster of the Year winner for radio, 2000; won W.Va. Broadcasters Best Talk Show in 2013 with co-host Paul Swann and W.Va. Broadcasters Best Play-by-Play in 2015 with Jason Toy (Huntington at South Charleston, state AAA semifinals). Member of (College) Football Writers Association of America, (College) Basketball Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Color commentator for Marshall football (1999-2000), for Marshall basketball (2004-2016) and Marshall baseball (2004-2016). Color for high school football at Spring Valley (1999-2008), Cabell Midland (2009-2012) and Huntington (W.Va.) High School (2013-2016).

Recommended for you