Herb Turetzky, Nets’ Official Scorer for 54 Years, Dies at 76
Herb Turetzky, a passionate basketball fan who was the official scorer for nearly every home game played by the nomadic Brooklyn Nets franchise from its inception in 1967 until his retirement last year, died on Monday at his home in Whitestone, Queens. He was 76.
His wife, Jane, said the cause was primary lateral sclerosis, which causes nerve cells in the brain that control movement to fail. In recent years, he attended games in a wheelchair.
Over 54 years of meticulously keeping statistics, Mr. Turetzky recorded the field goals, rebounds, assists, fouls and free throws of Nets stars like Julius Erving, Rick Barry, Buck Williams, Jason Kidd and Kevin Durant. He became a forever Net, the team’s de facto historian and a gregarious friend to players and the news media.
He took his seat at center court with his scorebook for more than 2,200 Nets home games, first when the team was in the American Basketball Association and later in the National Basketball Association, after the leagues merged.
“He brought so much class and care to the scorer’s table, not a place where you necessarily look for that,” said Mr. Erving, who led the New York Nets to A.B.A. championships in 1974 and 1976. “The job is drudgery for some people, but not for Herb. He cared so much for it, and his reputation preceded him everywhere.”
Mr. Turetzky was a senior at Long Island University in Brooklyn in 1967 when he took his future wife, Jane Jacobs, to the Teaneck Armory in New Jersey to see the first game in the team’s history. Then called the New Jersey Americans, they were playing the Pittsburgh Pipers in a matchup of two storied forwards from Brooklyn: the Pipers’ Connie Hawkins and New Jersey’s Tony Jackson, who, like Mr. Turetzky, was from the Brownsville neighborhood.
“We had no money and he had free tickets, and we were going to watch the game,” Mrs. Turetzky said by phone.
Before the tip-off, Max Zaslofsky, the Americans’ coach and general manager, noticed that the scorer’s table was empty and spotted Mr. Turetzky. He knew Mr. Turetzky from his attending games of an Amateur Athletic Union team that Mr. Zaslofsky had coached. He asked him if he could keep score.
“Max, I’d love to,” Mr. Turetzky recalled saying, as quoted in a Sports Illustrated profile last year. “I’m here, so why not?” He added, “I’ve never left that seat since.”
After one season in Teaneck, Mr. Turetzky followed the Nets to Long Island, where they played in three arenas, including the Nassau Coliseum; then to three homes back in New Jersey, including the Prudential Center in Newark; and finally to Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Between 1984 and 2018, he scored 1,465 consecutive games.
“When I did my 900th straight game, they covered it on NBA TV,” he told the New Jersey newspaper The Record in 2012. “Charles Barkley was on, and when they made that comment to Barkley, all he said was: ‘Nine hundred straight Nets games? Boy, that man’s seen a lot of bad basketball.’”
“I have seen some bad games,” he added, “but I’ve seen some great ones.”
In 2020, when all the bad and great games — and those in between — added up to 2,206, Guinness World Records certified them as the most by an official scorer in N.B.A. history.
Mr. Turetzky was inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004.
Herbert Stephen Turetzky was born in Brooklyn on Dec. 19, 1945. His mother, Rose (Pearl) Turetzky, was a bookkeeper for the maker of Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup. His father, Sam, was a plumber. Herb played basketball at the Brownsville Boys’ Club (now the Brownsville Recreation Center), where he also learned how to run a scoreboard and maintain a scorebook.
After he graduated from L.I.U. in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in economics, he was a teacher and then a principal at a Brooklyn elementary school. After that, he worked as a grants writer for the New York City Board of Education and owned a trophy business. He earned two master’s degrees, in education and in administration and supervision.
All the while, Mr. Turetzky was traveling to Nets home games. His longest break from his scoring duties began in November 1968, when he was driving to a game in Commack, on Long Island. He lost control of his car on the Long Island Expressway, crossed a grass divider and crashed into an oncoming car. The driver was killed.
“I was in a coma for about six weeks and broke my entire left side up, creating some muscular damage, had a concussion, broke my jaw,” he told The Asbury Park Press in 2005.
He returned to the Nets the next season and rarely missed a game after that. Along the way, he and his family became part of the fabric of the team.
He was pushed, fully clothed, into the showers at Nassau Coliseum and doused with champagne as the team celebrated its 1976 title. His family hosted the guard Levern Tart, known as Jelly, at their Thanksgiving dinners. The team’s mascot, Duncan the Dragon, was a guest at the bat mitzvah of Mr. Turetzky’s daughter, Jennifer. His son, David, was a Nets ball boy.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Turetzky is survived by his daughter, his son and two grandchildren.
Jennifer Turetzky recalled listening to her father call in the box scores of Nets games to the Elias Sports Bureau, the N.B.A.’s longtime official statistician.
“A box score has a certain direction, and he delivered it in the same cadence, with each player on both teams, starting with minutes — say, 37 — then 5-for-12 and 6-for-9,” she said by phone, describing the field-goal and free-throw statistics. “Then the big number at the end, 45 points. He did it all through my childhood.”