The Indiana Pacers were the class of the old American Basketball Association to start their 49-year history. Who are their 25 best players of all-time?
The Indiana Pacers’ 49-year history can be split into two distinct parts—the first nine years, where they were the dominant force in the old American Basketball Association; and the last 39 years, where they have fought to find a place in the NBA.
The Pacers were the second-winningest team in ABA history, going 427-317 in regular-season play in the circuit’s nine-year history, but no team ruled the ABA postseason the way Indiana did.
The Pacers won three ABA titles—the lone franchise to do so—and played in five ABA Finals.
The problem for Indiana was that the merger came along a few years too late for the players from the glory years—three ABA championships in four seasons from 1970-73—to try their hand against the powers of the established NBA.
Instead, it was a franchise in decline that entered the NBA in 1976, making the playoffs just twice in its first 13 NBA seasons and it wasn’t until 1994—the Pacers’ 18th year in the NBA—that Indiana won a postseason series.
After making the playoffs all nine seasons in the ABA, the Pacers have been in the postseason 23 times in 40 NBA campaigns, including nine straight years from 1998-2006, a period that also included the team’s lone visit to the NBA Finals in 2000.
The team’s longest serving player personnel decision maker was Donnie Walsh, who was in charge from April 1986 through July 2003 and again from June 2012 through June 2013.
Larry Bird has also served more than a decade in that capacity, from July 2003 to June 2012 and again since June 2013.
Bird is the franchise’s lone recipient of the NBA Executive of the Award, winning in 2011-12.
Slick Leonard, who took over as the Pacers’ coach nine games into their second season in the ABA, is the franchise’s winningest coach, amassing a record of 529-456 from 1968-80.
8 Points, 9 Seconds
A two-time All-American guard at Indiana, including the school’s NCAA title run in 1953, Leonard played seven seasons in the NBA with the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Packers/Zephyrs.
He was coach of the Zephyrs, later the Baltimore Bullets, for parts of two seasons as well.
Frank Vogel is the only other coach with more than 200 victories with Indiana, going 250-181 in parts of six seasons from 2010-11 through 2015-16, when his contract was not renewed.
Nate McMillan, a former Vogel assistant, will become the franchise’s 15th head coach when the 2016-17 opens.
Leonard was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach—the lone ABA coach to be so honored—in 2014.
Two Pacer coaches have been named NBA Coach of the Year, Jack McKinney in 1980-81 and Bird in 1997-98.
The franchise has played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse since 1999. They played at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum from 1967-74 and at Market Square Arena from 1974-99.
In 49 seasons, the Pacers have an overall record of 2,033-1,942, a .511 winning percentage that is 12th among the current 30 NBA franchises.
With a 45-37 mark in 2015-16, the Pacers returned to the playoffs after a one-year absence, losing in the first round.
The Pacers have never had the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft, picking second three times, third once and fourth once.
So who are the 25 best players ever to wear the blue, white and gold of the Pacers? Only time spent with the Pacers is considered and players had to play a minimum of 150 games to be on the list. The franchise’s time in both the ABA and NBA was considered.
Here are the 25 best Pacers of all-time:
Next: The Rifleman Brought Instant Offense