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Billy Mokray

Sport: Basketball

Born: June 6, 1907

Died: March 21, 1974

Town: Passaic

William G. Mokray was born June 6, 1907 in Passaic. Bill attended Passaic High during the era of Ernest Blood’s “wonder teams,” which during one stretch put together 159 straight wins. Bill was the unofficial statistician for the team, recording the standard numbers but also paying attention to little-used stats like rebounds, assists and shooting percentages. He began to understand the story these numbers told.

Mokray2Bill attended the Rhode Island State College—now the University of Rhode Island—where he continued to feed his stat-keeping habit following the fun, fast-breaking squad coached by Frank Keaney. After graduation, Bill became the school’s sports publicity director, continuing to promote Keaney’s “racehorse” style to the nation’s sportswriters into the late 1930s.

In 1944, he was hired by Converse to edit its annual Basketball Yearbook, a post he held until his death.

Also in 1944, Bill was hired as basketball director of the Boston Garden, a popular venue for NHL hockey as well as boxing and wrestling. Two years later, Walter Brown made him PR director for the Boston Celtics of the newly minted Basketball Association of America. Bill was a relentless promoter of the Celtics for more than two decades, working through the entire Auerbach-Cousy-Russell championship run.

Although sportswriters knew Bill for his promotional acumen, basketball fans knew him for his most enduring creation, the Official NBA Guide. Bill also published the first basketball encyclopedia, in 1963 and edited several editions of the popular Basketball Stars of... series (left).

In 1965, Bill was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. After he retired, he donated his massive basketball library to the hall. He passed away at age 66 in 1974.

 

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