Once described as a man who could "sell Tang to a citrus grower," Marty Blake was an NBA original—part builder, part huckster, part talent-evaluation genius. Blake, who died on Sunday at age 86, grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania and in the 1940s began working as a scorekeeper for the semipro Wilkes-Barre Barons. He hustled his way into the front office and was soon doing a bit of everything, including promoting boxing cards and stock car races. In '54 Blake moved to Milwaukee to become G.M. of the NBA's Hawks. He led the club first to St. Louis (where it won a title in '58, and where he drafted Lenny Wilkens in '60) and later to Atlanta. He left the Hawks in '70 for a one-year run as G.M. of the ABA's Pittsburgh Condors.
In 1976 Blake became the NBA's director of scouting, a job he held for 35 years. It was his eye for talent for which he is best remembered—he was known as the Godfather of NBA Scouting. Along with his son Ryan, Blake put out the most influential tome in basketball every spring: Marty Blake & Associates' Draft Book. Among the unheralded players he championed were future Hall of Famers Scottie Pippen and John Stockton. "We don't tell teams who to pick," said Blake. "We just tell them who's out there."