MEMORIES OF TIMOTHY GASSEN: "I lived much of my teenage years in the mid- to late-1970's at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, most often at the very top of the arena with friends, banners and noise-makers in support of our WHA Indianapolis Racers major league hockey team.
We followed the ABA Pacers in a round-about way – when the Racers were on the road, we'd go to Pacers games and sit near the court. It was the opposite of our normal view of MSA from the rafters, and it allowed us to see the fast-breaking ABA style up-close: really short shorts, really big hair and really fast action! I loved the fast pace of ABA games, and my absolute favorite visiting team was The Nets with Dr. J. Besides being perhaps the greatest ABA player of all time, as a 14 year-old I remember thinking he had the greatest afro haircut of all time! He would leap for a dunk and his hair was so large that it would smash down and cover his entire face as he moved upward, and then as he returned to Earth it would fly straight over his head like puppy ears. His graceful, powerful style and acrobatic dunks were simply unforgettable. And as an opposing player you know he had to be good to make such a lasting impression on a hometown teenage fan!
I'll also never forget the 1975 ABA Finals game against the Kentucky Colonels where a last-second heave seemed to win the game for the Pacers – only to be overturned by the refs. Video replays showed the shot was good before the clock ran out, but the game was lost. Such emotion, from elation to utter despair, all in one second. The Pacers didn't recover from that, but the team did make it to the NBA in the merger. Interestingly, many fans were disappointed with the more conservative style of the NBA, and my beloved hockey Racers actually out-drew the NBA Pacers at the gate in 1976-1977. Of course it's great that The Pacers have survived to today, but I don't know how they will ever top their championship ABA years, that wonderful red, white & blue basketball, and the positive vibe at Market Square Arena. Long live the memory of the American Basketball Association!"
MEMORIES OF DARRIN COOK: "I am at the age where I can just barely remember a few Pacers games that my father took me to. But what great memories I still have of them. Growing up in Kokomo, Indiana, basketball tradition is strong, as it is throughout the rest of the state. But it was a real treat to go to a Pacers game. My dad would typically not tell me about the game until that morning when he would say, "Do you have any plans tonight? Well, I got these tickets and if you want to go see a Pacer game... " He never got to finish that sentence. I was always jumping around and acting like a typical kid. We always left early so we could stop at White Castle and grab a few burgers before the game. White Castles were only located in Indy. Then when we arrived at MSA, you noticed the size of it and the smell of the popcorn when you walked in the door. You could hear the noise starting to build as you walked around the outer concourse, looking for your aisle number. The pre-game warmups were awesome, the crowed was usually going nuts before the game even started. Watching "Slick" Leonard walk to the bench with those trade mark pants, Dancing Harry during the time out breaks, the Pace Mates, Leo Sayer singing Long Tall Glasses, and of course Dr. Dunk, I could not ever sell these memories or replace them. After the game my dad and I would stop by Steak & Shake for a quick snack before driving back home. I only hope I can pass along half of the great memories to my boys as my dad passed on to me. Talk about priceless."
MEMORIES OF SHERRY MASON: "I was a kid when it started, and I live in Indiana. I honestly didn't know there was a difference between the ABA and the NBA until years later. We had no NBA team, and when the Pacers started, we were all agog. We thought it was just like the American League and the National Legaue in major league baseball. My brothers went to Slick's basketball camp, we cheered for the Pacers, and - guess what - we still do.
Slick is a treasure in Indiana, now and always. I watch the games with the radio sound on so I can hear him. We all went through the Reggie Miller years and were on cloud nine. But none of that could have happened without the ABA getting us started.
I also didn't realize until looking into it how boring the NBA was before the ABA woke them up - infrequent dunks, no threes??? Why would you watch?"
MEMORIES OF TOM McDANNIEL: "Many of the things I remember about the ABA Pacers have already been written about by other fans, so I will not repeat them. One thing I do not think has been fully explained is Darnell Hillman's jumping ability. The announcers used to claim that if a dollar bill were placed on top of the backboard, Darnell could retrieve it. I believe it. He could really sky.
The other things I want to mention are memories of Big Mac. I remember the way he would go up and snatch rebounds with one huge hand, sort of like an eagle grabbing prey in one claw. The other thing I remember about Big Mac occurred in a playoff game. I think it was played in Denver. George was lead man on a fast break and tomahawk-slammed the ball... oh, and he bent the rim with his wrist when he did it. He didn't hang on the rim and use his weight like every other bent rim or broken backboard you have ever seen. It was pure power. It is too bad that Big Mac developed knee problems at a young playing age. Otherwise he would have been a dominant player in the NBA as well."
MEMORIES OF BOB PASWATER: "I started going to tIndiana Pacers ABA games from the first season in 1967. Perhaps my favorite memory of all those years is from a game between the Pacers and the Utah Stars. Ron Boone was a very strong 6-2 player on Utah, and for some reason had the unhappy task of guarding George McGinnis. Throughout the game Boone kept elbowing McGinnis. I was on the first row and watched closely and Boone would poke him in the ribs over and over again. McGinnis was yelling at him to stop and yelling at the refs that he was getting fouled, but nothing was called.
I don't remember the exact quarter, but after quite a while of this, McGinnis had enough. Boone was guarding McGinnis near the free throw line and elbowed him in the ribs again. Boone was at least 220 pounds of muscle. But McGinnis turned around and grabbed Boone's shirt with one hand and threw him under the basket, a toss of 10-12 feet. Boone landed out of bounds with a thud and of course McGinnis was called for a foul. But Boone never elbowed him again during the rest of that game! McGinnis was one of the strongest players to ever play the game."
MEMORIES OF JOHN DeVOE: "Watching Roger Brown play in his prime was special. He had that great move where he would bring the ball down near the floor with both hands and fake before going left or right or up with the jumper.
Darnell Hillman dunks, Mel Daniels fadeaways, Jimmy Rayl threes with the red, white and blue ball rotating perfectly for what seemed like forever, Willie Wise, Ron Boone in his prime, James Jones, the dunking contests in the warm ups, Art Heyman getting a certificate for a haircut, telling Spencer Haywood "nice game" after the All-Star game, Carrier and Dampier, Gerald Govan with those huge glasses and that jumper that always hit the side of the backboard, Tom Thacker's defense, Steve Chubin, Neto, John Brisker and Warren Jabali, Levern Tart, Cincy Powell, Bob Verga, and on and on. I remember feeling betrayed when ABA players would jump to the NBA.
I was a lucky kid to get to see these things - and to see it all through a child's eyes. The world needs more of the innovative and somewhat innocent (by comparison) spirit of the ABA. I still keep a red, white and blue ball signed by Mike Storen in my office."
MEMORIES OF MARTY BRAND: "I am 45 years-old and grew up in Indianapolis watching the Pacers play at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum on East 38th Street. My dad and I used to go. I've tried to tell people, unsuccessfully, how great those games were. The Coliseum had such a great atmosphere for a game. One of the best things was the lighting. When the game started they would turn off all of the lights except the ones hanging over the court - the stands would be relatively dark - it made for great viewing. And the lights put out a nice warm glow, not like the awful, energy-saving lights used today.
The Kentucky Colonels games were always great with Gilmore, Issel, Dampier and Carrier but the best games were against the Utah Stars. Mel Daniels vs. Zelmo Beaty, Roger Brown vs. Willie Wise and Freddie Lewis vs. Ron Boone and then we had local hero Billy Keller to break the game open with some 3-pointers - what memories!"
MEMORIES OF WES SIMMONDS: "Being a teenager growing up in Indiana, the Pacers were everything to me. My parents passed their love of basketball on to me. My mom was a huge Pacers fan. She knew all the players' birthdays, and would send them birthday cards. She especially loved George McGinnis. In fact, she had a framed picture of him in our living room. I wish she would have had the chance to meet him before she died. I recall that she would often times go out to the airport to greet the players when the Pacers came home from a playoff game. I especially remember the playoff games against our arch rivals, the Kentucky Colonels. We Pacer fans hated the Colonels with all the passion we could muster. Those were great Colonels teams, just down I-65.The matchup of Louie Dampier against Billy Keller, Artis Gilmore against Mel Daniels. Many nights I would go to bed with a transistor radio listening to the Pacers playing against Zelmo Beaty in Utah.
Later on I remember the Pacers having a telethon to raise money to keep the team in Indiana. Slick Leonard and his wife were on TV imploring Pacer fans to buy season tickets to keep the franchise alive. I bought one season ticket and gave it to my local Boy's Club. I just wanted to do my part to keep the Pacers in Indiana. I have many of the old Pacers programs and all my ticket stubs from games I attended at the Fairgrounds Coliseum. Like many Pacers loyalists, I learned to dislike the rival NBA because of the disparaging comments made by NBA people like Red Auerbach. The ABA had great players like McGinnis, Dr. J., Artis Gilmore, Billy Keller, and George Gervin. My all-time ABA "dream team" is Artis Gilmore in the middle, McGinnis & Erving up front and Billy Keller with Freddie Lewis in the backcourt. Of course "Slick" would be the coach. Coach Leonard deserves to have his plaid coat hung in the rafters at Conseco Fieldhouse. Without his efforts the Pacers would probably not even exist today. The ABA will live in the hearts of loyal ABA and Indiana Pacers fans forever."
MEMORIES OF MITCH SHIVELY: "I cannot for the life of me remember what year it was that this occurred, but I remember Slick Leonard and all of the Pacers being on TV for a telethon. It was to raise money to keep the team in business. It had to be in the mid 1970's time frame, and I remember being transfixed to the TV, scared stiff that my beloved Pacers were going down the drain.
Of course, I coerced my Father into making a pledge."
MEMORIES OF DOUG COPLIN: "I was 9 years old and my family took a 3-hour trip to Indianapolis on a Thanksgiving eve to see the Pacers play the New York Nets. The Pacers of course had Mel Daniels and Roger Brown, the Nets had Rick Barry. My first memory was of 6 foot 2 Ollie Taylor jumping center for the Nets. He could really jump! The game seemed to be a lot faster than the NBA games I watched on Sunday afternoon with my Dad. And, of course being 9, I wanted to have one of those red, white and blue balls. However, my main memory involves the following sequence, which I still remember so many years later. Rick Barry drives the lane, Mel Daniels blocks the shot out to a guard (Bill Keller, Freddie Lewis, I don't recall) who passes to Roger Brown on the wing. On the other end, Roger pulls up at the three point line to let one fly when he sees Mel flying down the middle of the court . Roger jumps to shoot but instead fires a bullet pass to Mel who catches the ball in stride and dunks the ball "with authority." In fact he dunks the ball so hard that they have to stop the game for a few moments until the rim stops bouncing. I close my eyes and I can still see the block, the pass and the dunk - I am 9 years old again and the ball was red white and blue."