MEMORIES OF STEVE OOLEY: "There is one major Pacers player who should be mentioned in the top three or four players ever to wear the blue and gold. That player is Bob Netolicky (#24, right). Netolicky was one of the all time great Pacers and one of the most colorful characters in the ABA. It has been said that "Neto" was the "Broadway Joe Namath" of the ABA, only Neto won more championships! I remember going to a nightclub after every Pacer home game and partying until late in the evening with all of my favorite Pacers at "Neto's in the Meadows," a popular Pacer night spot owned by Mr. Netolicky. It was very interesting to see my heroes fleet of cars in the parking lot of the lounge. Roger Brown's pink Cadillac El Dorado, Freddie Lewis' Electric green Cadillac, Neto's orange Porsche 911 Targa, and of course Indiana's local favorite, Jimmy "the splendid splinter" Rayl's beautiful 427 COBRA. Jimmy's Cobra would rattle the window's of Neto's lounge when he started the motor, similar to the way his three pointers rattled the nets in those close games against Kentucky and Utah at the old Fairgrounds Coliseum. Neto was a great player and true ABA legend. After all anyone who kept a Lion as a pet and made all those All-Star games, must be mentioned as one of the all-time Pacers."
MEMORIES OF JOHN BUDKE: "I can remember going to some games at the Fairgrounds Coliseum during the first few years of the league. Before the games you could often see Bob Netolicky with a beautiful woman on his arm. It was never the same one and one night he had two as he walked around courtside before the game. The fans' accessibility to players was much different back then. Before one game, my brother and I were walking close to the Pacers dressing room when Mel Daniels and Roger Brown came out. We didn't know what to say, but they saw our pens and programs and said hi. Then they gave us autographs. They could have just as easily passed us by. One game I saw Ron Taylor and Bill Evans of the New York Nets out in the tunnel area. They carrying their own bags and they were nothing fancy. I'm sure that is different today. I can remember going to a game that first year in Indianapolis and as the Pacers were warming with layups, George Peeples started putting on a dunking show. George was a 6-8 rail thin backup center who could jump. Bobby Joe Edmonds must have been a good friend of George's. Anyway, Bobby Joe was positioned to throw the ball to George for his layup but instead of throwing it to him and letting him come in with the ball, he would wait until George was running in. Then Bobby Joe would throw the ball high in the air around the basket. George would go up after it and slam it home. It was a good show but I was even more impressed when 6-0 Freddie Lewis would come in there and dunk the ball during the warmups. He could really get up there and I used to think wow, here this guy is only 2 inches taller than me and he's dunking the ball with two hands. It was great."
MEMORIES OF A. NOVOTNY: "My father took me to the very first Pacer game in the old ABA. We were both surprised to see 2,000 people turned away at the door. They let around 10,300 inside the Fairgrounds Coliseum, and it only held about 9300. There were no fire marshals, so about 1,0000 people stood in the aisles. It was one of the greatest nights to be a basketball fan in Indiana. The smoke was really bad, sometimes it just hung in the air like a cloud. I remember watching Jimmy Rayl throw up 3 pointers, the Splendid Splinter at IU. I remember Jerry Harkness and Ron Bonham - previously, they had played against each other in the NCAA final game, Cincinnati vs. Loyola of Chicago. I remember Oliver Darden who played with the great Cazzie Russell and Bill Bunting at Michigan, and finally the always present Bob Netolicky. I recently saw him, and he really looks the same as he did in his playing days.
For the last 30 years I have worked at Ford Motor Co. in Indianapolis. I remember a security guard there telling some of the younger employees how he used to play a little basketball in his day. Most of his colleagues seemed mildly amused. He retired a year ago and I forgot all about him, until recently when I came across an old ABA program. The guy on the cover looked very familiar, his picture appeared 2 times in the program. I finally realized it was the security guard I had seen every day when entering the plant. His name was Sam Smith. He played with Mel Daniels in Minnesota, and then for the Kentucky Colonels. I wish I would have known this sooner so I could have talked with him about the ABA and the thrill it gave a young boy. He too would probably have enjoyed talking about such a great time in his life. If he ever visits the plant again, I will be sure and tell him how much I enjoyed watching him play. Long live the ABA!"
MEMORIES OF MARK LANE: "One of my fondest ABA memories involves a game that was played at the Coliseum in Indianapolis. I believe it was in 1968 or 1969. We went to the game early to watch the Pacers warm up. We had seats directly behind the Pacer bench. A certain gentleman was already sitting a few seats away from us when we arrived. He had already consumed a few beers, as evidenced by the stack of empty cups under his seat. I was only 9 or 10 years of age. When my parents saw the stack of cups, they made me sit in the seat that was farthest from this gentleman. Anyway, when the game started the gentleman began yelling for Slick Leonard "to put [George] Peeples in." He continued to yell this advice the entire first half, but to no avail. Peeples sat the whole half. At the beginning of the second half, the yelling intensified, but Peeples continued to sit. By this time, the screaming had caught the attention of the Pacers bench, and several players were starting to laugh. In the fourth quarter the Pacers were losing badly. With less than two minutes remaining, and the Pacers down by at least 20, Leonard finally called for Peeples to go into the game. Everybody in the stands was waiting for the drunk to voice his approval (and for a few minutes of silence from this loudmouth). To everyone's amazement the next words out of this guy's mouth were: "Hell Leonard, even Peeples isn't that good. Even he can't bring us back from 20 down." I will never forget the reaction of Leonard and the whole Pacers bench. Pure pandemonium from the players, the fans, and Slick. Leonard just shook his head in bewilderment."
MEMORIES OF BERNARD O'BRIEN: "I recall an early 1970's game between the Indiana Pacers and the Kentucky Colonels at the Fairgrounds Coliseum in Indianapolis. During the game, a time out was called by the officials. The PA announcer then advised the crowd that a bomb scare had been phoned in and that the game would be temporarily suspended. All fans were directed to head for the parking lot until the building could be searched by the police. While waiting with my friend in the parking lot, I noticed that the entire Kentucky Colonels team was standing only a few yards away. Apparently the evacuation plan at the Coliseum provided no special treatment for the visiting team (especially not the Colonels!)"
MEMORIES OF KEITH MITCHELL: "I was born, raised and continue to live in Indianapolis. I grew up at the Fairgrounds Coliseum watching the Pacers. My first game was an exhibition game before the ABA's second season in September 1968. The Pacers beat the Colonels. After that, I saw about 80 games in person at the Fairgrounds (tickets weren't always easy to get - sometimes we took SRO tickets). One game that stands out in my mind was in late 1969. My Catholic grade school had a special night at the game. The Pacers were something like 30-8 when the game was played, and they were playing a bad team, the New Orleans Buccaneers (who were about to move to Memphis where they would continue to struggle for another five years). Anyway, the Bucs blew out the Pacers that night! We were all stunned - we thought the Pacers were invincible back then: Mel Daniels, Roger Brown, Freddie Lewis, Netolicky, coach Slick Leonard, et al. I think New Orleans got up on the Pacers by about 25 points in the 4th quarter and we young students still thought a Pacer victory was surely coming. No such luck. That night for New Orleans, the unlikely offensive assassin was none other than Austin "Red" Robbins - a clumsy, skinny white guy with long sideburns. I think he played out the rest of his career with a much better team - the Pacers' chief rival, the Utah Stars. Robbins certainly was on fire that night. In the 1969-70 season, that New Orleans game was one of the few dark spots for the Pacers. They went 59-25 and blew through the playoffs -- winning their first ABA championship. At the Indianapolis 500 parade the players all came in by separate convertibles and waved to the fans. Those were good days."
MEMORIES OF KIM WOOD: "I was 14 years old when the ABA started. I grew up in Anderson, a town 30 miles northeast of Indianapolis. I remember listening to the very first Pacers game on the radio. It was at the Coliseum and Jerry Baker did the play-by-play (actually, Baker still does games for the Pacers network). I attended a game that first year against the Pittsburgh Pipers, and I could not believe the things that Connie Hawkins could do on the basketball court. I really became interested in the Pacers during their second year -- after they acquired Mel Daniels and hired Slick Leonard as their coach. The 1969 Playoff series between the Pacers and the Miami Floridians had to be relocated to my high school gymnasium due to a scheduling conflict at the Coliseum (I believe a circus was already booked there). Can you imagine that happening nowadays? My high school gym had a capacity of 9,000 so large crowds were not a problem. The Oakland Oaks defeated us in the ABA Finals that year, and Warren Armstrong was the dominant player in the series. I also remember a playoff game in 1972 against the New York Nets. In that game, Billy Keller hit four 3-point baskets, including one with only 16 seconds left, to steal a victory from the Nets. And during the 1973 Championship series against Kentucky I was able to attend six of the seven games. I remember the last game as being very low scoring, 88-81, much like many of the defensive battles they have in the NBA today."
MEMORIES OF ROB SHOEMAKER: "I grew up in Anderson. I can vividly remember watching ABA Pacers games at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum. I also listened to games on the radio. But for me, the biggest thrills occurred when the Pacers occasionally played at the Anderson High School "Wigwam." The Wigwam was a 8500 seat gym (one of the largest high school gyms in the United States, if I recall correctly). Freddie Lewis looked huge to me! And Bob Netolicky and Roger Brown--wow! I also clearly recall annual visits to my high school by Bob "Slick" Leonard. He visited my school not to promote the Pacers, but to sell class rings and other high school jewelry for Josten's (I believe). I couldn't believe that Slick needed another job during the regular basketball season. Seeing and talking to him up close made the reason for his nickname obvious -- I think he used a bottle of Vitalis per day on that wavy black hair of his!"
MEMORIES OF MIKE CALDWELL: "The best game I've ever seen -- without a doubt -- was between the Pacers and the Rick Barry-led Nets. In regulation, the Pacers were down by 3 with 2 seconds left when Freddie Lewis banked a 3 to send the game into overtime. In the overtime, the Pacers were down 1 with 10 seconds to go, and New York had the ball out of bounds. Roger Brown jumped in front of Barry and drew a charge. Then, the Pacers cleared out the floor for Brown, with Barry playing defense. With just 2 ticks on the clock "Rajah" drove to the basket and put up a soft finger roll. The ball rolled in and bedlam ensued. Barry scored 52 and Mr. Clutch, Roger Brown, had answered the bell once again."
MEMORIES OF PAT COSGROVE: "During the 1970-71 season the Pacers came to Madison Square Garden to play the New York Nets in the second game of a special ABA doubleheader. The game drew a lot of hype because the New York press was anxious to see how the ABA's elite franchise played on the New York Knicks home court. The Pacers lived up to their billing as they won convincingly against a fired up Net squad (led by Rick Barry). The Pacers clicked on all cylinders as Roger Brown, Freddie Lewis, Bob Netolicky and Mel Daniels impressed a large MSG crowd. The next day the New York Post quoted Knick coach Red Holtzman as saying the Pacers were "legit." Speaking of Daniels, it is a shame he doesn't get the respect that he earned. During the first six years of the ABA he was as good as Nate Thurmond. He certainly deserves to be in The Hall Of Fame before Walt Bellamy. During Game 5 of the 1971-72 ABA Finals against the Nets, Daniels made a couple of plays (in succession) that I'll never forget. As I recall, the series was tied 2-2 and the Nets jumped out to a huge lead on the Pacers home court. The Pacers staged a wild rally -- mainly due to a 3-point barrage by Billy Keller. However, the Nets looked like they would hold on for the upset. Barry hit a couple of big hoops and then made a spectacular move to get past Roger Brown. He seemed to be cruising in for an easy left-handed layup. But Daniels came out of nowhere to reject the shot right into the hands of Freddie Lewis. Lewis then led the break and dished off to a hard-charging Daniels -- who dunked and was fouled. The momentum reverted to the Pacers and they won that crucial contest. If this sequence had occurred in the NBA Finals, you can be sure that we would have seen the film replayed as much as Willie Mays' catch in the '54 World Series."
MEMORIES OF SCOTT HAEBICH: "In May 1972 the Pacers faced the New York Nets in the ABA Finals. I was at Game 5 at the Coliseum. That was the game where the Pacers fell behind 40-20, and then tied the game at 60-60. It was back and forth the rest of the way. The Nets got the ball with a few seconds left, down by one point (100-99). Somehow, Rick Barry got wide open for a long inbounds pass. But the ball (and the game) slipped through his fingers and rolled out of bounds."
MEMORIES OF DAVID McKINNEY: "My favorite ABA Pacers memory has to be the 1972 Finals against the Nets. In Game 5, the Pacers were down big at the half. But then Billy Keller brought them back with a barrage of 3-pointers. At the end "Team Captain" Freddie Lewis hit two free throws to put the Pacers up by one with something like 3 seconds to go in the game. The Nets made a length-of-the-court pass, and it sailed right through Rick Barry's open arms, out of bounds. I can still picture that, 26 years later."
MEMORIES OF JOHN FOSTER: "I don't remember the year, but it was around 1972 or 1973. I was single and several of my friends and I went to the opening day Time Trials of the Indianapolis 500. In those days, that was a big time event. I had a radio with me and we were watching the race teams battle for the pole spot. At the very same time, the Indianapolis Pacers were playing the Kentucky Colonels and it was the 3rd or 4th game of the ABA Finals. I kept track of the basketball game on the radio. I began giving the race fans around me the Pacer playoff updates. Before long, there was more interest in the Pacer game than in the race for the pole. This is a huge statement considering how big Indy 500 pole day was in the early 1970's. I will always remember my color commentary and incidentally, the Pacers won that day, and went on to win the ABA Championship."
MEMORIES OF JON WEATHERLY: "I was a kid in Indianapolis in the 60s and 70s. The company that my dad worked for had ABA Pacers season tickets from the start. Since Dad was the general manager of his company, we got to use those tickets a lot. The Fairgrounds Coliseum, where the Pacers played then, was a pretty rustic place by today's standards. We sat about halfway up, but I always felt like I was close enough to smell the action. I remember lots of images of the old ABA Pacers: Freddie Lewis coolly bringing the ball upcourt, Bob Netolicky always looking like he was in pain, Mel Daniels muscling a rebound, Billy Keller launching a three or driving to the lane (to lift a high arcing shot over the big men), Bobby Leonard (we never called him "Slick" back then) going purple as he baited the refs. Mostly I remember Roger Brown managing to find a way to score whenever a big game was on the line. It seemed like that guy could add two inches of height and twenty degrees of angle to his fadeaway jumper if the shot really mattered.
And I remember feeling like the ABA didn't get any respect. When the networks (CBS) *finally* came in to show a playoff game, they hung up huge banks of lights over the Coliseum playing floor. It was like our dingy old Coliseum just wasn't good enough for the rest of the country. That's why we all loved to hate Rick Barry and Julius Erving. Star players belonged in the NBA. In the ABA, teams had to scratch and hustle. Of course, Barry's attitude made him easy to hate. Erving was just too impressive a player and too nice a person to hate for long. Sure, in the early years of the ABA, the NBA had better players. But I *still* think that the ABA had the better game. The thirty-second shot clock, the three-to-make-two bonus, the three pointer -- they all made for a wide-open, competitive, entertaining offensive game. I think that you can trace a line from the ABA through Erving to the Thomas/Johnson/Bird/Jordan NBA that explains the success of pro basketball in recent times. Now it's slipping, if you ask me. Let's give the NBA a 30-second clock and a red, white and blue ball!"
MEMORIES OF RICK PEAVLER: "Nothing compares to the ABA today. I lived in Greenwood, Indiana and attended many Indiana Pacer ABA games. During the course of the ABA's existence, I saw some of the greatest players who ever played the game. The Virginia Squires came in with Julius Erving and George Gervin. Utah had Willie Wise and Zelmo Beaty. Kentucky had Dan Issel, Artis Gilmore and Louie Dampier. And Pittsburgh brought Connie Hawkins to the Coliseum. But no one could shake and bake like the Pacers' Roger Brown. I saw them all, but the Rajah was the best I've ever seen "one-on-one." In those days you could stand outside the locker rooms and wait for the stars to exit, just to get a chance at an autograph. I still have some of those signatures today. I remember that once I was aggravated because I couldn't get Bob Netolicky's autograph. He was one of the ones who'd sneak out the back door. Eventually I saw Coach Leonard come out, and I asked him, "Where's Neto?" "He's inside," Leonard claimed. I told him how bad I wanted to meet Neto and get his autograph. Then Leonard said, "Come on in kid, let's meet Neto." I walked into the locker room with Bobby Leonard and we approached Neto. He shook my hand and signed my autograph book for me. Coach Leonard was, and still is, a great man. In my opinion, the Pacers should retire his blazer and raise it to the rafters like the other three greats."
MEMORIES OF MICHAEL SHUCK: "Some of my greatest teenage memories took place watching the Pacers in the 1960's and early to mid '70's. I became so passionate about the Pacers I would drive to a downtown Indianapolis newsstand every week to get the weekly edition of the Sporting News - it was worth it to read Jim O' Brien's column on ABA News. I often was forced by my parents to take my younger sister to games at the Fairgrounds Coliseum. I would buy the cheapest seats in the rafters and then make her to stay there while I snuck down to the expensive (I think $5.00) seats under the basket. Almost every game was followed by a walk through the gate to the Tee Pee Restaurant, where we would have a Big Chief Burger and onion rings, and further discuss the game.
I never knew who Roger Brown, Don Dee or Larry Staverman were at first but I do remember being so excited when the Pacers signed Jimmy "The Splendid Splinter" Rayl and Oliver Darden. I remembered them battling IU and Purdue in the Big Ten, while at Michigan. As an early Pacers fanatic, my interest really began to peak upon the trade that brought Mel Daniels to the team. I can remember thinking "Wow they paid $125,000 for him"? Watching Mel play with the likes of Rajah, Neto, Freddie Lewis, John Barnhill and Billy Keller was very special. Like so many fans, I can remember on many occasions screaming "Quit loafing Neto!" as he had a habit of not always playing hard on every play. My dream was to be able to go to his bar "Neto's" but I was too young.
My excitement climbed to the next level when Rick Mount joined the team for the 1970-71 season. To this day, he still may be the best college shooter I have ever seen. Slick never really embraced Mount and I eventually learned why as he played little defense and his game never really translated into a big time pro player.
Finally, my all time favorite Pacer to watch was and still is to this day Big George McGinnis. While he was in high school I watched him score 50 points against my school like a man among children. He was in my opinion the first player in either league that combined brute strength and extreme quickness. I recall watching exhibition games against NBA teams where the NBA players were dumbfounded at George's abilities. I have to also chuckle at how animated Slick would get at some of the crazy, one-handed three pointers Big Mac would throw up. It was a sad day when George jumped from the Pacers to the NBA.
Another vivid memory was going to the opening of Market Square Arena in the fall of 1974. I was awestruck by the size and how beautiful it was. I thought Indy had finally hit the big time! I watched the inaugural exhibition game there - the Pacers played Kareem Abdul Jabbar and the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA.
I currently live in LA and could go on and on about the ABA Pacers and how much they meant to me. Something inside me still roots for the underdog as I am now a Clippers fan. I get to watch the current George McGinnis/Julius Erving hybrid, Blake Griffin. Unfortunately, he was born 40 years too late as he seems to have ABA DNA running through his veins."