Herb Turetzky, the Nets long-time scorekeeper and NBA legend, has died. He was 76 years old.
The Nets announced the death on Tuesday morning.
“For 54 years, Turetzky was synonymous with Nets Basketball. He was the one constant since the inception of the franchise, and his passing leaves a void that can never be filled. A fixture at center court, he touched the lives of generations of Nets players, staff and fans, leaving an indelible mark on those who knew him. His warm smile and kind-hearted nature will be forever missed by all at Barclays Center, and his legacy will endure for years to come.”
Turetzky retired as Nets only scorekeeper after 54 years in October. He had worked more than 2,200 games starting with their very first game at Teaneck Armory as the New Jersey Americans in 1967.
“For 54 years, I’ve had the best seat in the house,” Turetzky said in a statement back in October. “It’s been a joy to work with so many incredible people over the years, and I am very proud to be a part of this great organization.”
A month later, the team honored him in a courtside ceremony attended by players from across his five decades and the Nets current leadership.
A native of Brownsville, Brooklyn, Turetzky joined the franchise by chance. Then a senior at LIU, he had gone to his first game as a fan wanting to watch two fellow Brooklynites, Tony Jackson and Connie Hawkins battle for the New Jersey Americans and the Pittsburgh Pipers. But he was pressed into service as scorekeeper by Max Zaslofsky, the New Jersey Americans’ first head coach who Turetsky knew from Brooklyn street ball.
“Me and a couple of guys went,” Turetzky said of the game at the Teaneck Armory. “I bumped into Max. Before we finished talking, Max said, ‘Why don’t you score the game?’ I became the official scorer that night — Oct. 23, 1967 … It was very exciting.”
Turetzky followed the team from the Teaneck Armory to the Island Garden to the Commack Arena to Nassau Coliseum to the Meadowlands and finally back to his beloved hometown. He called his journey “a 360-degree circle for me,” He’s worked for owners who’ve included a New Jersey trucker, a Russian oligarch and the co-founder of a Chinese e-commerce giant. Mikhail Prokhorov once interviewed him before a game in 2013.
From that first game in October 1967 to the last in June 2021, Turetzky logged game after game, logged milestone after milestone as the Nets noted in their press release announcing his retirement.
That game began a career that spanned more than 2,200 games and was eventually certified as a record for professional basketball games scored in the Guinness Book of World Records. Turetzky also worked 1,465 consecutive regular season and playoff games, beginning in the 1984-85 season and concluding in Oct. 2018. Turetzky’s tenure saw him score games in nine home arenas with more than 500 players donning a Nets uniform in that time. He was on hand to score the greatest moments in franchise history, including ABA championships in 1974 and 1976 and consecutive trips to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.
Along the way, he dealt with injury and illness, including COVID-19 early in the pandemic which he described as “scary as hell.” At the end of his career, he was confined to a wheelchair and assisted by his wife, Jane. But despite it all, he was the constant through the franchise’s ups and downs.
“I’ve never left that seat since,” he told Sports Illustrated last year. “I’m still here and I’m still going.”
Turetzky reminisced to SI about his career highlights in that story by Ben Pickman, but none, he said, were higher light than when he was pulled into the Nets locker room shower that night in May 1976 when the New York Nets beat the Denver Nuggets for Julius Erving’s second ABA title.
He’s also served as the link across the franchise’s history, even organizing reunions for the team’s former players. Pickman quoted Dan Anderson who scored 41 points in the Americans’ first game as saying, “He’s really been my only contact with the team since I played.”
“If you want to know the history of the Nets franchise, there’s no better source than Herb,” said Tim Bassett, a forward on the Nets’ 1975-76 championship team.
“He’s a treasure,” Erving, Turetzky’s favorite player, said of him. “He’s part of the original franchise. Who else has that?”
“It’s not a Nets season without Herb Turetzky,” said Ian Eagle.
NBA official Bob Delaney once called him, “the Michael Jordan of scorekeepers.” He could’ve just as easily called Turetzky the Lou Gehrig or Cal Ripken Jr. of scorekeepers. Greatness bound by longevity.
Turetzky earned a number of honors throughout his career with the Nets, including his induction into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame and the Basketball Old Timers of America Hall of Fame.
When he retired, he told Tom Dowd of the Nets that every game in his Brooklyn was a thrill for him, looking forward as well as back.
“We drive in every day and every night coming here I smile,” said Turetzky. “It’s romantic, thinking of where we’re going. Seeing the changes in the borough, as we’re driving through Williamsburg and Greenpoint and down Flatbush Avenue. New high rises. New restaurants. This is about eight or nine subway stops from where I grew up as a kid. If this was ever here when we were young, it would have been the greatest thing in the world. That’s what it feels like today.”
And for 54 years, it was the greatest thing not just for him but for the team and its fans.
Turetzky is survived by his wife of 51 years, Jane, their daughter, Jennifer, son, David, daughter-in-law, Heather, and grandchildren, Jack and Harper.
Rest in Peace, Herb Turetzky.
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