NBA great Hal Greer no longer speaks to press, avoids ex-teammates

hal-greerThe man who possessed one of the smoothest jump shots in NBA history, no longer speaks to the press or keeps in touch with many of his former 76ers teammates since suffering a major stroke that has affected the right side of his body.

“Hal is kind of a recluse. He doesn’t communicate with anybody. … He’s just disappointed with how his career came to an end,” said Chet Walker, the Hall of Fame forward who teamed with Greer and Wilt Chamberlain to win the 1967 NBA championship.

Greer, like Walker, was an original 76er and one of the mainstays of the team’s success after the franchise relocated from Syracuse to Philadelphia in 1963.

Greer played his entire 15-year pro career for the organization, including 10 seasons in Philadelphia, after the Syracuse Nationals drafted him out of Marshall with the 13th overall pick in the second round of the 1958 draft.

A 10-time All-Star, and seven-time member of the All-NBA second team, Greer still ranks as the franchise’s leader in points scored, minutes played, games played, field goals made, field goals attempted and personal fouls.

Greer was named MVP of the 1968 All-Star Game after shooting 8 for 8 from the field and scoring 21 points, including a record 19 in one quarter. He was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982, and the NBA named him one of the 50 greatest players in league history in 1996.

“I knew Hal when I got there in ’68. I was with him for one year,” said Pat Williams, who was raised in Wilmington and later became the Sixers’ general manager for 12 seasons.

“Tough little bulldog. He was tough as nails. And quiet. Didn’t talk much … but would just go out and perform. Maybe the best middle distance jump shooter of all-time. You could argue that. That 15-, 16-, 17-foot range. It was like a layup to him.”

Greer averaged a team-high 27.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists during the 1967 postseason, when Philadelphia ended Boston’s run of eight consecutive championships and upended the San Francisco Warriors in six games in the NBA finals.

“It was a beautiful, beautiful season,” Greer once told the Philadelphia Daily News. “We had everything. We knew we were going to win most of our games – it was just a matter of by how much.”

Greer’s former teammate Billy Cunningham recalled Greer as a great shooter.

““It was interesting. The game obviously has changed drastically, but what players learned is what their strengths and weaknesses were. Jerry West and Oscar Roberston were in that category of jump shooters. … But with Hal Greer, it was money in the bank. He was so good at that, he shot his foul shots that way. He shot his foul shots with a jump shot,” Cunningham, himself a Hall of Famer and the sixth man on the ’67 championship team, said.

Greer, now 76, lives in Arizona. He served as an assistant coach with the Sixers while playing in a reserve role through his final season in 1972-73, when Philadelphia stumbled to a 9-73 record, piling up the most losses in NBA history.

Gene Shue took over as head coach the following season, and within four years had the Sixers in the NBA finals. Therein may reside whatever disconnect is present between the franchise and one of its all-time greatest players.

“At the end of his career, he felt he should have had a job as a coach or an assistant coach with the team,” Walker said. “And they overlooked him. And that was not fair. He had given his whole career to the franchise and was integral to the success of that franchise”.

“The first few years [in Philadelphia], it was just myself and Hal,” Walker said. “He was extremely bitter about how he was treated, and I can kind of agree with him. I don’t know how it went down, but I knew he wanted to be an assistant coach on the team, because he needed a job. In that day, we weren’t making any money. And they didn’t find any place for him anywhere in the organization. And I thought it was terribly unfair the way they treated him.”

“His career ended and everybody just kind of lost track of him…” said Williams, who took over as the Sixers’ general manager in 1974. “He’s forgotten in Philadelphia to some degree but will always be remembered as one of the game’s greats.”

Hal Greer played in 1122 NBA games, averaging 19.2 points per game, 5 rebounds per game, and 4 assists per game.


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