NEW YORK (AP) — Marty Blake, the NBA’s longtime director of scouting, died Sunday. He was 86.

Blake worked in the NBA for more than 50 years and is considered the “Godfather of scouting.” The NBA said Blake died in Alpharetta, Ga., but didn’t provide a cause of death.

Blake was general manager of the Hawks franchise before spending more than 35 years as the league’s director of scouting. Commissioner David Stern said the NBA would “forever be indebted to him.”

“Marty began his lifetime of service to basketball at a time when the league was still in its infancy,” Stern said in a statement. “His work as a general manager and then as director of scouting for the NBA first helped the teams to understand the value of scouting. Marty’s dedication not just to the NBA, but to basketball was extraordinary and we will forever be indebted to him.”

Blake became a general manager at 27 and drafted Hall of Fame players such as Lenny Wilkens and Pete Maravich. He led the Hawks to the 1958 NBA title and was later the general manager of Pittsburgh’s ABA franchise, but made his biggest impact in the field of scouting.

He began providing scouting reports to both NBA and ABA teams, and by 1976, Marty Blake & Associates came under the umbrella of the NBA league office. His reports and other vital player information were made available to all NBA teams.

He helped put together the first NBA predraft camp in 1982, and helped find and bring future NBA players such as Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Tim Hardaway and Dennis Rodman to the Portsmouth Invitational.

Blake was honored in 2005 with the Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the highest award short of enshrinement.

He began his career in sports as a teenager, serving as a scorekeeper for the semi-pro Wilkes-Barre Barons of the Eastern Pennsylvania Basketball League. He later promoted everything from major boxing events to stock car races and minor league baseball games.

Blake retired just recently, and his son, Ryan, has taken his place.

Blake is survived by his wife, Marcia; children, Eliot, Sarah and Ryan; and five grandchildren. Arrangements for services in the suburban Atlanta area are pending.

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