The Indiana Pacers spent 9 years in the ABA, starting in 1967 before the league merged with the NBA in 1976. Since then they have competed in the NBA’s eastern conference, in a basketball-crazed state with one of the most loyal fan bases in the league. Despite the fact that they have never won an NBA championship, there have been plenty of Pacer greats over the years. They have retired four jersey numbers in the team’s history. Mel Daniels, George McGinnis, and Roger Brown played only in the ABA for Indiana so they will not be featured here, but still, deserve a mention as Pacer greats.
Looking Back at Indiana Pacer Greats
Point Guard – Mark Jackson
The New York native was running the show during the Pacers’ only trip to the NBA Finals. Mark Jackson played six total seasons in Indiana and averaged between 7.5 and 9.8 assists per contest over those years. Jackson was never a big-time scorer but was always among the best point guards in the league during his long career. He has the third-most assists in franchise history despite playing less than half of his career there.
Jackson was the epitome of a professional point guard. He may not have been the flashiest player, but he always knew where his teammates were supposed to be and got them the ball in the right spots to be able to score.
Shooting Guard – Reggie Miller
Easily the most recognized of all the Pacer greats over the years, Reggie Miller has the franchise records for most points, steals, assists, and minutes played. The three-point specialist from UCLA is thought of as one of the best shooters in NBA history. He played 18 seasons in Indiana, and when he retired he held the NBA record for most career three-pointers made. His miraculous 8-0 run late in a playoff game against the New York Knicks is still one of the most iconic performances ever.
He made five All-Star teams as a Pacer and finished his career with over 25,000 points. His shooting ability was matched only by his tireless effort to get open when he didn’t have the ball. Miller averaged double digits every season he played and had seven seasons above 20 points per game.
Small Forward – Paul George
Another of the Pacer greats hailing from southern California, Paul George played his first seven NBA seasons in blue and gold. The versatile 6’9” wing is the definition of a two-way player. He averaged over 20 points per game three times for Indiana and has always been among the league’s best perimeter defenders.
George emerged as a potential star in his third season, especially during the Pacers playoff battles with LeBron James Miami Heat teams. His scoring averaged increased from the regular season to the playoffs in each of the last five seasons. He was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder before the 2017-18 season in a deal that brought current star Victor Oladipo to Indiana.
Power Forward – Jermaine O’Neal
The big man from South Carolina was among the first handful of players to jump from high school to the NBA in the late 90s. After four seasons in Portland learning as a bench player, he came to Indiana and blossomed into an All-Pro. He made six All-Star teams during a stretch where he averaged 20.3 points and 9.9 rebounds a night.
The left-handed big man was both extremely athletic and technically skilled when he had the ball in the post. He was also a force on the defensive end. Jermaine O’Neal averaged two or more blocks a game 11 consecutive seasons for the Pacers. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in that category, while also ranking in the top six in points and rebounds. He scored a career-high 55 points during a 2005 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Center – Rik Smits
Known as the dunking Dutchman, the European big man played all 12 of his seasons for the Pacers. Rik Smits provided the post scoring during the 90s, while the aforementioned Miller roamed the perimeter. He averaged double figures in each year he played. His best season was in 1995-96 when he scored 18.5 points a night on 52 percent shooting.
Smits was one of the first true centers to start expanding the range with which the position is played. He had a myriad of post moves and also developed a sweet shooting stroke out to about 18 feet. For his career, he ranks second in team history in points, blocks, and minutes played. His playoff buzzer-beater against the Orlando Magic was voted as one the NBA 60 greatest playoff moments.
Trying to build an All-Time team is difficult because there will always be great players left out simply due to the small number of spots open. Luckily, every team needs a strong bench to lean on, and this list of Pacer greats is no different.
Point Guard – Vern Fleming
The Pacers have had good success with New York City point guards, with Jackson, Vern Fleming, and Jamaal Tinsley all hailing from the big apple. Fleming played 11 seasons in Indiana. He scored n double figures in each of his first seven campaigns. He finished in the NBA’s top 20 for assists four different times during the 80s. Fleming is still top three in Pacers’ history in assists, steals, and minutes played.
Shooting Guard – Billy Knight
This 6’6” wingman was a part of Indiana’s transition from the ABA to the NBA. Billy Knight scored 26 points a game in the franchises inaugural NBA season after the two leagues merged. He would then move on for a few seasons before returning to the Pacers for five seasons during the middle of his career.
Knight is third all-time in points scored for Indiana and is one of only four players with over 10,000 points in franchise history. In his second season, still in the ABA, he averaged a double-double putting up 28 points and 10 rebounds a night.
Small Forward – Danny Granger
Drafted 17th overall in 2005, the New Orleans native was well on his way to becoming one of the best players in team history before injuries derailed his career. He had a smooth offensive game. Danny Granger had the ability to attack the rim, shoot from deep, and post up smaller defenders.
In 2008-09 he averaged nearly 26 points a game and made his only All-Star team. Despite injuries robbing him of his prime, he remains top ten in points, steals, and blocks in Pacers’ history. His 964 threes while in Indiana are second only to Miller.
Power Forward – Dale Davis
This big man from Clemson was the muscle on those mid to late 90s teams that starred Miller and Smits. Dale Davis was a dominant physical specimen, known mostly for his rebounding and defense. His powerful dunks were also a staple of those teams. He was an excellent screen setter, helping free up Miller for open looks night after night. Davis still ranks in the top five in team history in rebounds, blocks, and minutes played. His 6006 boards are the most during the Pacers NBA tenure.
Center – Roy Hibbert
This former Georgetown big man always felt like a case of missed potential. Roy Hibbert’s production never seemed to match his combination of size and skill. He did average double figures for six straight seasons in Indiana. The big man also helped lead the team to the playoffs four consecutive years. Hibbert’s wide body and soft-touch made him tough to handle in the post when he was on.
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