Top Five Indiana Pacers of All-Time
Since their formation in 1967, the Indiana Pacers’ history had a great beginning, a period of struggle, and then an uprising. It started with winning three championships while playing in the ABA. Then they had a period of struggle when they came into the NBA in 1976 as part of the NBA-ABA merger. The Pacers then had a rise when they hit the modern-day NBA, notching an eastern conference title in 2000. Nowadays, they have been a consistent playoff team for a state that has a proud basketball heritage. With these players, they played a role in the successes of the Pacers’ history.
Top Five Indiana Pacers of All-Time
Earning the nickname “The Dunking Dutchman”, Rik Smits became a key piece for the Indiana Pacers during the 1990s. For his career, he averaged nearly 15 points a game of 50% shooting while also being a decent rebounder averaging a little over 6 rebounds a game. He went on to make an All-star in 1998, putting up 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists.
He also made a name in the playoffs with a series-tying buzzer-beater in game 4 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals. With all the potential he had, he was plagued with foot injuries throughout the majority of his career. Due to his injuries, he retired after the 1999-00 season.
During the 2000s, Jermaine O’Neal was one of the main staples for the Pacers and their success. O’Neal was originally drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers but was traded to Indiana due to collective bargaining issues. In just his second season, he was able to win the Most Improved Player award by averaging 20.8 points a game and securing 10.3 rebounds a game during that season.
That season also would lead to his first of six straight All-Star appearances. Appearances which would be the only times he would make the All-star game for the rest of his career. He would end his storied Pacers career on the injury bug and was traded to the Toronto Raptors during the 2008 offseason.
When it comes to the early days of the Indiana Pacers before they were integrated into the NBA, George McGinnis was the main player for them. In just his first 2 seasons, He was the key player in the Pacers back-to-back ABA championships. The Indiana product even became the ABA Playoffs MVP in 1973. A time when he averaged 23.8 points and 12.3 rebounds a game during those playoffs.
He would also become Co-MVP along with NBA legend Julius Irving of the ABA in 1975. He then went on to have a good career in the NBA after the two leagues merged in 1976. After coming into the league, he became a three-time All-star and was selected All-NBA First Team in his first season. McGinnis went on to be a Hall of Famer and have his number retired by the Pacers.
When it comes to one of the best Pacers of the modern-day NBA, Paul George is definitely one of those players. He was drafted by the Pacers in 2010 and was selected Second-team All-Rookie that year. In 2013, he would go on to win the Most Improved Player Award and was selected to his first All-Star game. During this timeframe, we start to see George become a rising superstar especially when it came to the playoffs.
He would lead the Pacers to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals appearances in 2013 and 2014. After a gruesome leg injury in the 2014 offseason, he would rebound in a big way when he scored 41 points in his third All-Star game. He would leave Indiana in the 2017 offseason in a trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite this, he gave the Pacers a bright future to look forward to.
Arguably the greatest player in Indiana Pacers history is Southern California native Reggie Miller. He became well known for his performances in the playoffs. This became notable after a historic performance in game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Knicks. A game where he scored 39 points and engaged in trash talk with Spike Lee. This is when he gave his iconic “choke” gesture.
This would lead to something even more iconic when Miller scored 8 points in nine seconds at the end of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Knicks. The Pacers would eventually win the series in 1995 but would lose to the Orlando Magic in the Conference finals. Five years later, Reggie Miller will lead the Pacers to their first Finals in franchise history. His impact on the franchise gave them some of their best years and he’ll always be loved in Indiana.
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