Pollin was born to a Jewish family in Philadelphia on December 3, 1923, to Jennie and Morris Pollin. When he was 8, Pollin's family moved to the Washington area from Philadelphia. Pollin graduated from The George Washington University in 1945 and took a job with his family's construction company for 12 years. The Pollins launched their own construction company in 1957.
A successful construction contractor in the Washington area, Pollin headed an investment group that bought the then Baltimore Bullets in 1964. He moved the team to the Washington area in 1973 after building the Capital Centre. In 1996, Pollin announced that he was changing the team's name because he felt the name "Bullets" had too many negative connotations. "Our slogan used to be 'Faster than a speeding bullet,' but that is no longer appropriate", Pollin told the press. A "name-the-team" contest yielded the name "Wizards."
Pollin supported the Washington, D.C. community philanthropically, including a 1988 partnership with businessman Melvin Cohen to award college scholarships to 59 fifth-graders in Seat Pleasant, Maryland. Beginning in 2002, an award called "The Pollin Award" has been awarded annually in his honor. People are chosen for the Pollin Award based on their dedication to the Washington, D.C. community and the impact they have on it. Winners of the award have included Georgia M. Dickens, 2002 Executive Director, The S.T.E.P.U.P. Foundation Of Greater Washington, D.C. Inc., Harvey C. Barnum, Jr., 2005 Teacher of the Year, Jason Kamras and 2006 Miss District of Columbia, Kate Michael.
Pollin died on November 24, 2009, nine days before his 86th birthday, of corticobasal degeneration, a rare brain disease. He had made donations totaling $3 million toward finding a cure for the disease.
Pollin and his wife, Irene Sue (née Kerchek) were married on May 27, 1945, in Washington, D.C.
Abe Pollin was the chairman of the board, chief executive, and the majority shareholder of his company, Washington Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Wizards and the Verizon Center, amongst other entertainment interests. He was also the builder and owner of the Capital Centre, former home of the Washington Bullets (Now Wizards) and Capitals.
On March 9, 2009, Pollin was inducted into the George Washington University School of Business Sports Executives Hall of Fame. In March 2011, he was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Pollin's building and financing of the Verizon Center is often given credit for revitalizing Downtown Washington, D.C. The Verizon Center block of F Street NW is named "Abe Pollin Way" in his honor. The Irene Apartments at 4701 Willard Ave, Chevy Chase, Maryland, were built by Abe and named after his wife.
Mayor Adrian Fenty named December 3, 2007, "Abe Pollin Day" in Washington, D.C.