Monday, October 10, 2011

There was a time when hoops was king (Part 2)

      Continued from last Friday …….
       I am remiss because I failed to fill in some of the blanks about Hal Greer’s connection to Marshall University basketball in my last blog entry. Greer attended Marshall (1955-58) and was the first black athlete in the state of West Virginia to play for a major college. He was also the first black to attend Marshall on an athletic scholarship.
Hal Greer played 15 seasons in the NBA.
      The best of Greer, however, was not fully showcased until after he turned pro. He never made first-team All-NBA during his career. Yet, he was widely acknowledged as one of the elite players of the ‘60s. Only two other guards – legends Oscar Robertson and fellow West Virginian Jerry West – were considered to be better.
       Even though Greer never won any league MVP awards, his NBA legacy is undeniable. In pro basketball’s golden anniversary year of ’96, Greer was named one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players
       As a player, Greer’s defining trademark was a dead-eye jump shot from the top of the key. He was so “on-the-money” with his jumper that he shot “the j” whenever he shot free throws. This was not an orthodox way of doing things. But it worked well for Hal Greer. For his 15-year career, he hit 80 percent from the foul line.
       The former Marshall star was a prime-time figure on a Philadelphia 76ers team that featured Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain and Billy Cunningham. During the ’66-’67 season, Greer led the Sixers to one of the best finishes in league history. Greer & Company went 68-13 that season. The only teams to fare better in a single season: Michael Jordan’s Bulls (72-10 in ’95-‘96) and Chamberlain’s Lakers (69-13 in ’71-‘72).      
       In the spring of ’67, Philly slam-dunked the despised Boston Celtics in the playoffs to end their eight-year championship run. The Sixers followed up by dominating the San Francisco Warriors to win the NBA title. Greer averaged 27.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists in the playoffs. He scored 21,586 points during his career which still stands as a 76ers franchise record.
       In a 2006 article published in Hoop Magazine, Cunningham commented on Greer’s accuracy as a jump-shooter. “It (jumper) was as good as anybody’s who ever played the game,” said Cunningham, the sixth man on Philly’s championship team. “I think the beauty of Hal Greer’s game is that he knew where he was most effective and he never shot the ball from an area where he was not completely confident and comfortable. He never went outside of 18-20 feet maximum, but he was deadly and he had the ability to get to that spot.”
       Greer’s presence and excellence at Marshall set a standard, which paved the way for the black athletes who would come to MU in later years.

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