Indiana Pacers NBA Basketball

While in Indianapolis, basketball fans make it a point to cath a Pacers game thanks to their rich history and current competitive play.

Early History

The Indiana Pacers were originally part of the now defunct American Basketball Association (ABA) when they joined the league in 1967. They played in the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum during the early years from 1967-1974, moving later on to Market Square Arena starting with the 1974-75 season where they eventually stayed until 1999. Under the tutelage of Coach Bob Leonard, although Larry Staverman was the first coach of the team, the Pacers went on to win three ABA Championships and appeared in five ABA Finals making them the most successful basketball team in ABA history. The Pacers owe their winning streak to basketball legends Roger Brown, Mel Daniels, George McGinnis and Rick Mount.

Indiana Pacers join the NBA

In an unfortunate turn of events, the ABA folded its operations in 1976 and the Pacers joined the NBA, albeit at a heavy price. They needed to pay a $3.2 Million entry fee into the NBA, compensate the other ABA franchises that also folded and they were not allowed to share in the TV revenues of the NBA for the next four years. All these led to a financial meltdown of the Pacers, revived if only partially and luckily from a major telethon program that was run in order to raise some funds to keep the Pacers playing in Indiana. With all this going against them and having to adjust to their new league, the Pacers suffered through a succession of losing seasons, highlighted only by the fact that they allowed women’s basketball player Ana Meyers a chance to join the team’s rookie camp, making her the first and only woman to ever tryout for the NBA, although she didn’t really make it through.

Plodding through the next seasons, the Indiana Pacers went through several coaches: Jack McKinney, George Irvine, Jack Ramsey and Dick Versace. The Pacers’ performances were really not noteworthy except for deserving recognition of some of its players like Chuck “The Rifleman” Person who led the team to their first playoff win in their NBA history and Reggie Miller who became the team’s all-time leading scorer.

The dawn of a new era

Eventually, after a few more changes in coaches, the Pacers found their way and started getting their head in the game, mostly as a result of the coaching of Larry Brown who headed the team from 1993-1997 where they earned their first NBA playoff series win against Orlando Magic and defeated the Atlanta Hawks in the Conference semifinal. In the 1994-1995 season, the Pacers also won their first Central Division title although they didn’t win in the Eastern Conference finals.

After the team suffered a few minor setbacks because of injuries to their key players leading to a poor performance in the next season (1996-1997), former Boston Celtics player Larry Bird finally replaced Larry Brown and stayed with the team between 1997 and 2000. Under Larry Bird’s leadership, the Pacers made it to the Eastern Conference finals, forced the Chicago Bulls into an enduring 7-game conference match and finally won the Central Division championship for the 2nd time. He was also responsible for taking the team to face the Los Angeles Lakers in their first NBA Finals after defeating the New York Knicks. They were ultimately defeated by the Lakers.

In 2000, Larry Bird retired and the team moved to their new home, the Conseco Fieldhouse where they still play. Larry Bird was replaced by Isiah Thomas who struggled along with the team who was now suffering from the loss of their veteran players and the adjustment of the new rookies. They still managed to get to the playoffs however with the entry of Brad Miller, Ron Artest, Kevin Ollie and Ron Mercer as a result of a trade with Chicago Bulls.

The Present

When Larry Bird became President of Basketball Operations for the Pacers in 2003, he immediately retired Isiah Thomas in favor of Rick Carlisle, which turned out to be a good call because they earned the NBA’s best record with a 61 wins – 21 losses finish. In their quest for a Championship title, they defeated the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat but were unfortunately unable to get past the defense of the Detroit Pistons.

The Pacers were also involved in the infamous basketball riot in November 2004 when in a heated game against the Detroit Pistons, Ron Artest charged and attacked a Detroit Pistons fan who took offense at Artest’s foul against Pistons’ Ben Wallace. This escalated in a major brawl within the court resulting in suspensions for the players involved. Despite this major problem, the Pacers still managed to reach the playoffs, but couldn’t advance beyond the Eastern Conference Finals. It was at this time that Reggie Miller bowed out of basketball to a standing ovation from the crowd. Unfortunately, he didn’t see the Championship for his team despite an 18-year career record with the Pacers.

The Pacers are taking an upbeat swing to their game, with the trading of Ron Artest. Jermaine O’Neal and Anthony Johnson both continued to score high marks in their playoffs games but despite that they still didn’t manage to topple the New Jersey Nets.

The current roster of players in the Indiana Pacers include Head Coach Rick Carlisle, Team Captain Jermaine O’Neal, newly-drafted Rookie Shawne Williams, Euro League Player Maceo Baston and Stephen Jackson who unluckily got involved with a shooting incident.

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