Born: June 26, 1936
Position: Shooting Guard and Point Guard
Syracuse Nationals (NBA): 1958-’63
Philadelphia 76ers (NBA): 1963-’73
Consistently consistent. Unassumedly unassumed.
Hal Greer just trucked along in the background of the 1960s NBA.
He never led the league in scoring, never came close in fact, but he was one of the league’s best scorers. He never came close to sniffing an assist title, but he was a crafty passer. He never made the All-NBA 1st Team, but he did tally seven consecutive All-NBA 2nd Team appearances and ten straight All-Star games.
From 1961 to 1971, Greer never averaged below 18.6 points and never above 24.1. His teams made the playoffs every year from 1959 to 1971. During the same period, he played 1003 of a possible 1037 games. Players in the league recognized Greer as one of the exemplars of excellent guard play.
And yet he just trucks along in the background, even though he had one of the silkiest jump shots to grace the hardwood. He rarely gets put down as one of the great shooting guards in NBA history when popular Top 10 lists come out. Surprising, given that when he retired in 1973, Greer had scored more points than any player to that point, except Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, and Elgin Baylor. He had also played more games than any player ever. Only Oscar, Wilt, and Bill Russell had played more minutes.
But Greer is in the background because he started his career in 1959 with the Syracuse Nationals, the smallest of the NBA’s markets at the time. At the beginning of his career in Syracuse, perennial All-Star Dolph Schayes commanded what attention Syracuse received. Greer didn’t become a starter until 1961. From 1962 to 1964, Greer was the Nats/76ers best player (Syracuse having moved to Philly in 1963). However, it was the lowest ebb in talent for the club as its initial core of Schayes, Red Kerr, and Larry Costello aged, and younger players like Chet Walker were still maturing into full-fledged stardom.
Then in 1965 along came the outsized personality, ego, and talent of Wilt Chamberlain. Greer was a bit piqued at the Dipper’s arrival. Hal may have been in the background for the popular basketball conscience, but by this point he was the 76ers’s #1 player and scoring option. Chamberlain certainly changed that equation and thus Greer had to adapt and relegate himself to second banana status once again. Even with Wilt’s departure in 1968, a new star in Billy Cunningham assumed the mantle as Philly’s best player. Even on his own team, Greer had trouble standing out.
But just because someone fails to standout doesn’t mean they aren’t noteworthy. To this day, Greer remains unsurpassed in Nats/76ers history in total points scored.
In 1967, the 76ers stormed to a then-record 68 wins and the championship. Wilt was rightly NBA MVP, but Greer – along with Chet Walker – was charged with breaking down defenses if the offense got a little stale. And on the flip side, Greer was always game to harass and dig into the opponent’s best guard. In the 1967 playoffs, Greer came through with a nightly average of 28 points. And in the NBA Finals, Greer was tireless in averaging 26 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists per game.
Lastly, Greer’s longevity – hinted at above with his games and minutes played – also merits bringing him out from the historical shadows. When he retired in 1973, he and Elgin Baylor were the only NBA players to have scored over 10,000 points after turning 30 years old. And at age 34 he was still scoring 18.6 PPG. That may seem trivial, but it’s more noteworthy than you think.
Then again that’s Hal Greer, more noteworthy than you think.
After all, he did shoot jump shots for free throws.
7x All-NBA 2nd Team (1963-’69)
10x All-Star (1961-’70)
All-Star Game MVP (1968)
Regular Season Career Averages (1122 games):
19.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.0 APG
.506 TS%, .452 FG%, .801 FT%
15.7 PER, .124 WS/48
Playoff Career Averages (92 games):
20.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.3 APG
.491 TS%, .425 FG%, .812 FT%
14.7 PER, .096 WS/48