Why this article on The Indiana Pacers History? Well, let’s find out why…The Indiana Pacers, named after the rich harness racing tradition in the state and the pace car for the Indy 500, were a juggernaut in the ABA, the American Basketball Association.
Formed in 1967 by a group of six investors. The ABA distinguished itself with a more wide-open, flashy style of offensive play, as well as differences in rules (a 30-second shot clock, as opposed to the NBA’s 24-second clock.
The ABA did switch to the 24-second shot clock for the 1975-76 season, and use of a three point line). The league also used the red, white and blue ball, instead of the NBA’s traditional orange ball.
The highlight of Dr. J gliding under the backboard with his fro out big is a great representation of how the ABA played. An exciting high-octane offensive game that allowed it players to be completely creative.
The player’s personalities drove the league and its popularity. The freewheeling style of the ABA eventually caught on with fans, but no national television contract and abundant financial losses would spell doom for the ABA. In 1976, its last year of existence, the ABA pioneered the now-popular slam dunk contest.
The more significant long-term contributions of the ABA to professional basketball were to make in-roads to southern markets had been collegiate basketball hotbeds (including North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky). The NBA was focused on the urban areas of the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast.
Some of the greatest players of all time began their careers in the ABA, Dr. J, Rick Barry (Mr. Basketball), George “Ice Man” Gervin, Artis Gilmore, Dan Issel, and David Thompson. In 1967 the first player signed by the Pacers was Roger Brown, who was chosen out of a factory where he was working. Brown became one of the most respected players ever to wear Pacers uniform. After an initial losing season, Indiana had seven consecutive winning campaigns under Coach Bob Leonard.
In 1968-69, the first of his 12 seasons as coach, Leonard guided the team to a 44-34 mark. That year’s Pacers team scored at an alarming pace, averaging 119.6 points, a record that still stands. The league was re-aligned in 1968 put the Pacers in the Western Division.
The 1970-71 team finished 58-26 and won the division but was eliminated in the playoffs by the Utah Stars. Once again it was a high-scoring outfit, pumping in 119.1 points per game, the second-highest average in the Indiana Pacers history. The pacers repeated as champions in the 1972-1973 season with the addition of George McGinnis.
In 1974-1975 the team moved to the larger 16, 000 seat Market square Arena. After the Pacers joined the NBA (along with the Denver Nuggets, the New York Nets, and the San Antonio Spurs), all of their ABA achievements became history.
Playing in the NBA proved to be a rude awakening. The team that had been a dominant force in the ABA found itself struggling as an also-ran in its new surroundings. The 1976-77 Pacers team received a harsh introduction to NBA competition, at the hands of the Boston Celtics.
The Pacers pushed the Celtics into overtime before losing, 129-122.
After three losses Indiana posted four wins, then six losses, then four more wins. The Pacers weren’t terrific, but they were seldom embarrassed. The team was mediocre from the late 1970’s through the mid 1980’s. In 1983 owner Sam Nassi sold the team to the Simon Brothers.
The franchise began to turn around in 1987 when they drafted Chuck “The Rifleman” Persons, getting John Long from Detroit and the drafting of the sensational Reggie Miller. In 1988 the Indiana Pacers drafted Rik Smits and the puzzle was complete. They were a powerful and successful team through the 2003-2004 season.
They reached the Eastern Conference Championship four of six years but were never able to get passed that round. During the years from 1987 – 2005, the Indian pacers were an elite team in the NBA.
The Indiana Pacers have been a troubled team since 2005. They are no longer a feared and top level program. With proper management and wise trades and drafts they will once again rise to their long history as one of the best franchises in NBA history.