Men’s basketball legend Hal Lear dies at 81

Several took to Twitter to show their appreciation for Lear, who is one of four men’s basketball players to have his number retired by Temple.

Former Temple men’s basketball player Hal “King” Lear died on Saturday at his White Plains, New York home. He was 81.

Lear played for Temple from 1953-1956. During his time with the Owls, he averaged 19 points per game, finishing his career as the Owls’ second leading scorer. His 1,472 career points currently ranks No. 17 in program history.

“The entire Temple University community mourns the loss of Hal Lear,” Athletics Director Pat Kraft said in a university-released statement. “Hal was an All-American on the court, and, with Guy Rodgers, part of the greatest backcourt in Philadelphia basketball history. More importantly, though, he was truly a great man, and beloved by all. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Maggie and the entire Lear family at this time.”

He is one of four players to have their jerseys retired at Temple, thanks to his 745 points during his senior season, a single-season program record. Lear helped lead the Owls to a 27-4 record. The Owls reached the Final Four and earned a national ranking for the first time in the 1955-1956 season.

Lear’s 80 points in two games including 48 in the Owls’ third place game victory, earned him the 1956 Final Four Most Valuable Player award. He also earned first team all-District honors in his senior season.

“If, like me, you think the greatest decade in Philly’s great hoops history was the ’50s, Hal Lear was one of its last touchstones,” Inquirer writer Frank Fitzpatrick tweeted Sunday afternoon.

“Long live the king,” freelance columnist and author Bijan C. Bayne tweeted.

The Philadelphia Warriors drafted the Overbrook High School alum with the seventh pick in the 1956 NBA Draft. Lear played most of his professional basketball in the Eastern League, where he was named to the league’s All-Time team during its 50th anniversary season.

“Hal Lear was not only one of the greatest players, but one of the greatest people in Temple basketball history,” men’s basketball coach Fran Dunphy said in a university-released statement. “He personified class in every way, was a loving husband, father and grandfather. He is someone that will be remembered for his great feats on the court and how he handled himself with grace off it. A great man has left us.”

When the Owls announced they would retire his number, Lear first reflected on his education, an important aspect of his time at Temple.

“I am grateful for this honor, but more importantly I feel so privileged to have gone to Temple,” Lear said before Temple retired his No. 6 on Jan. 30, 2013. “Education is so important and I was well educated at Temple. The most important award I received when I left Temple was being named the team’s Outstanding Scholar Athlete. That means the most to me. When I look back on my time there I remember the many people who I met and who have gone on to achieve in life in so many ways.”

Lear retired following a 30-year career at Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York City as an executive administrator of the Department of Psychiatry. He is survived by his wife, Maggie O’Keefe Lear, his nine children, 21 grandchildren and one great grandchild.

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