There are not one, but two West Virginians on the NBA 75th Anniversary Team — and both are great stories
One of the great thrills of my life happened 10 years ago last Friday.
I was asked to introduce Jerry West and Sen. Joe Manchin at the Charleston Civic Center. It was a book-signing event for West’s book. Beforehand, Joni and I were able to spend some quality time with the legend and his wife.
It’s a great memory because, like many West Virginians my age, West was my idol growing up. I think the first real book I ever read was “Mr. Clutch; The Jerry West Story.”
Anyway, the NBA came out with its 75th Anniversary Team last week and, of course, I had to check to make sure my guy was included among the 76 (there was a tie in the voting) players named to the list. Current and former NBA players, coaches, general managers and team and league executives, WNBA legends and sports writers and broadcasters voted. Voters were asked to select the 75 Greatest Players in NBA History without regard to position.
Of course, West was on the list. But so was another West Virginia native. A West Virginia native that many, many times gets overlooked unless you live in the Huntington area.
I write of Hal Greer, who not only has a statue at Marshall University, but a boulevard named after him in Huntington.
So not one, but two of the 75 greatest NBA players hail from the Mountain State. Pretty cool for a state with a small population base.
Of course, it seems everyone knows the West story. He was raised in Cheylan, near Charleston. Went to East Bank High. Made WVU a national power. Was in the NBA for 14 years – and was an All-Star all 14 years.
But if you compare Greer’s NBA career to that of West, you’ll see he wasn’t all that far behind West.
While West played 14 years and was an All-Star in each, Greer played 15 seasons and was an All-Star in 10 of those. Both players won one championship.
Understand I’m not saying Greer was as good as West. But I AM saying Greer is very underrated in our state.
West scored 25,192 points, averaging 27 points a game through his career. Greer, meanwhile, racked up 21,586 points, playing 1,122 games to West’s 932.
Both are great stories. While West, aka The Logo, came from tiny Cheylan, Greer played for Douglass High School and was the first African-American to receive a scholarship at Marshall, where he averaged 19.4 points in three seasons.
In the NBA? Greer almost averaged the same, finishing with a 19.2-point average over those 15 seasons. He was a star on Philadelphia’s vaunted championship team of 1966-67.
Oh, and get this: While West was the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA draft, Greer wasn’t taken until the 13th pick of the second round in 1958.
And today? He’s STILL the 76ers’ all-time leading scorer.
Pretty cool, right? West Virginia can lay claim to both The Logo, one of the NBA’s most iconic players and executives, as well as the Philadelphia 76ers’ all-time leading scorer.
I say we’ll take that.
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.