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Celebrating 50 Seasons in 50 Photos
June 16, 2017
To conclude our celebration of 50 years of Pacers basketball, we took a look back at all 50 seasons to see some of the heights, top players, and best memories in franchise history. Many of the photos in the following gallery come from our recently uncovered archive of historical photos.
From the ABA dynasty to Paul George's Eastern Conference Finals teams, relive all the seasons by clicking through.
Player Pictured: Roger Brown
In their first season of existence, playing at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum, the Pacers made the ABA Playoffs but were swept by the Pittsburgh Pipers. Guard Freddie Lewis led the team in scoring, averaging 20.6 points per game to go along with 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per contest.
Player Pictured: Freddie Lewis
Nine games into their second season season, Indiana's first head coach, Larry Staverman, was replaced by Bobby "Slick" Leonard, who would go on to be the most successful coach in team history. With Leonard at the helm, the Pacers went 42-27 over the rest of the regular season. With star players like Mel Daniels and Roger Brown, the Pacers made their first Finals appearance, falling to the Oakland Oaks 4-1.
Player Pictured: Billy Keller
The following year, the Pacers roared right back to the Finals, capturing their first title in team history by besting the Los Angeles Stars 4-2. In the 1970 postseason, Roger Brown averaged 28.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game.
Player Pictured: Bob Netolicky
While looking to make their third consecutive trip to the ABA Finals, the Pacers faltered in the playoffs, dropping their Western Division Finals series with the Utah Stars.
Player Pictured: Mel Daniels
Looking to bounce back from their playoff loss the previous season, the Pacers got a shot in the arm by adding rookie George McGinnis to their core. As a rookie, McGinnis averaged 16.9 points and 9.7 rebounds, helping propel the Pacers to a 47-win season. During the postseason, McGinnis took over, averaging a team-best 20.4 points to help lead the Pacers to their second ABA Championship, defeating the New York Nets 4-2 in the Finals.
Player Pictured: Darnell Hillman
Following their championship, Indiana kept its winning ways intact, charging right back to the ABA Finals and defeating the nearby Kentucky Colonels 4-3 to capture its third ABA Championship. McGinnis was a once again a force in the postseason, racking up 23.9 points and 12.3 rebounds per game as the Pacers captured their third title in four seasons.
Player Pictured: George McGinnis
Looking to extend their ABA dynasty, the Pacers made yet another run at an ABA title, but ultimately fell short, losing to the Utah Stars in seven games during the Western Division Finals.
Player Pictured: Billy Knight
During the 1974-75 season, the Pacers made one of their most unlikely runs in franchise history. During the offseason, a trade sent away Mel Daniels, one of the franchise's most prolific rebounders and scorers in history, leaving McGinnis to be the focal point of the offense. During the regular season, McGinnis posted what could be argued as the best individual performance in Pacers history, averaging 29.8 points, 14.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game. The performance earned him Co-MVP honors with Julius Erving, and McGinnis helped carry the Pacers to their fifth appearance in the ABA Finals, where they were defeated in five games by the Kentucky Colonels.
It would turn out to be the Pacers' last trip to the Finals for another 25 years.
Player Pictured: Dave Robisch
Following McGinnis' MVP season, the Pacers could no longer afford to keep him under contract, with McGinnis understandably taking a better deal with the 76ers. Without McGinnis, the Pacers struggled, suffering their first losing season since their inaugural year in the ABA. Indiana still made the postseason, but fell in the first round to the Kentucky Colonels.
Player Pictured: John Williamson
1976-77 marked a period of change for the Pacers, making the switch from the ABA to the NBA. Indiana was led by the scoring of Billy Knight, who averaged 26.6 points per game, while John Williamson wasn't far behind, scoring 20.7 per game. Despite the potent offense of Williamson and Knight, the Pacers missed the postseason for the first time in franchise history.
Player Pictured: James Edwards
The next season proved to be underwhelming as well, as Indiana struggled to keep up with other NBA teams in terms of signing top talent. The Pacers finished the season 31-51, missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Player Pictured: Len Elmore
During the 1978-79 season, Slick Leonard's Pacers managed to improve, upping their win total to 38, but Indiana still missed the playoffs with fans growing anxious about the team's lack of success in the NBA in comparison to its ABA dynasty.
Player Pictured: Johnny Davis
During the 1979-80 season, forward Mickey Johnson had one of the most versatile seasons in team history, averaging 19.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. Following the season, Slick Leonard retired from coaching and still remains the franchise's all-time leader in wins, with his 529 hanging in the rafters of Bankers Life Fieldhouse today.
Player Pictured: Jerry Sichting
For the first time in the team's NBA years, the Pacers had a new coach, with Jack McKinney steering the ship for Indiana. During his first year, McKinney helped snap the Pacers' four-year playoff draught, getting Indiana into the postseason where it eventually was swept by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Player Pictured: Herb Williams
The following season, the Pacers took a step back, finishing the year 35-47 and back out of the playoffs. Johnny Davis was Indiana's leading scorer with 17 points per contest.
Player Pictured: Clark Kellogg
The 1982-83 season ended up being the Pacers' worst winning percentage in team history, but it wasn't all bad. During the offseason, the Pacers had drafted Clark Kellogg out of Ohio State, who put forth what can be argued as the best rookie season in Indiana Pacers history, averaging 20.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game.
Player Pictured: Steve Stipanovich
Clark Kellogg continued his stellar play during his second year in the league, averaging 19.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. But even with Kellogg's exceptional season, the Pacers underperformed again, losing 56 games in what would end up being McKinney's final year as the Pacers' head coach.
Player Pictured: Stuart Gray
For the 1984-85 season, George Irvine took over as head coach, but the team still struggled, losing 60 games. While Kellogg and Herb Williams each logged 18 points per game, the Pacers finished sixth in the NBA's Central Division.
Player Pictured: Wayman Tisdale
With the second pick in the 1985 NBA Draft, the Pacers selected Wayman Tisdale, a forward out of Oklahoma. As a rookie, Tisdale was an immediate contributor, averaging 14.7 points and 7.2 rebounds.
Player Pictured: Chuck Person
Jack Ramsay took over as coach for the 1986-87 season, guiding the Pacers to a 41-41 record and their first playoff berth since 1981. The Pacers had the services of Chuck Person, who was named the rookie of the year after averaging 18.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. During the postseason, the Pacers were knocked out in four games by the Atlanta Hawks, but during the series, Indiana picked up its first postseason win since joining the NBA in 1976.
Player Pictured: John Long
The following season, the Pacers regressed and missed the playoffs. But although they underachieved, the 1987-88 season was the rookie year for a young player out of UCLA: Reggie Miller. As a rookie, Miller averaged 10 points and 2.8 rebounds per game, playing in just 22.4 minutes per contest.
Player Pictured: Detlef Schrempf
The next season proved to be challenging as well, as Jack Ramsay was removed as head coach following an 0-7 start to the season. Even with its challenges, Indiana's young core continued to grow, with Rik Smits joining the team as a rookie out of Marist.
Player Pictured: Rik Smits
Dick Versace was the head coach to start the 1989-90 season and helped lead the Pacers back to the playoffs. Reggie Miller was establishing himself as the star of the team, averaging 24.6 points while shooting 41.4 percent from three. In the first round of the playoffs, the Pacers were swept 3-0 by the Detroit Pistons.
Player Pictured: Vern Fleming
During the 1990-91 season, Dick Versace was let go following a 9-16 start to the season, and Bob Hill took over, leading the Pacers to a 32-25 record with him at the helm. The Pacers again got back to the postseason, and pushed Larry Bird's Boston Celtics to the limit, ultimately losing 3-2 in a thrilling first-round series. During the postseason, three Pacers players (Reggie Miller, Chucker Person, and Michael Williams) averaged 20 or more points.
Player Pictured: Reggie Miller
In 1991-92, Reggie Miller continued his exceptional play, averaging 20.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. Miller's ascent as a star player in the NBA coincided with the addition of talented players around him, like Dale Davis, who provided an edge during his rookie season in 1991-92. Even though the Pacers had a losing record, Indiana still made the playoffs but was ousted by the Celtics for the second season in a row.
Player Pictured: Dale Davis
For the fourth season in a row, the Pacers finished within one game of a .500 record. There was frustration around the team that Indiana could never escape the first round, with the Blue & Gold getting knocked out by the New York Knicks this time around. Following the season, head coach Bob Hill was let go.
Player Pictured: Antonio Davis
For the 1993-94 season, the accomplished Larry Brown took over as head coach and immediately lifted the Pacers to heights they have never seen in the NBA. With a team brimming with young talent like Miller, Smits, Antonio and Dale Davis, while also adding the veteran services of Byron Scott, the Pacers swept the Magic in the first round, giving Indiana its first playoffs series win since joining the NBA in 1976. From there, the Pacers dispatched the Atlanta Hawks before advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they fell to the Knicks in seven games.
Player Pictured: Haywoode Workman
For the second year in a row, the Pacers advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, once again knocking on the door of the franchise's first trip to the NBA Finals. But this time around, the team that they swept in the first round of the previous year's playoffs dealt them a crushing blow, as the Orlando Magic knocked out the Pacers in a seven-game Eastern Conference Finals series.
Player Pictured: Travis Best
During the next season, the Pacers fell short in the postseason, getting knocked out in the first round by the Atlanta Hawks. During the five-game series, Miller was a scoring machine, pouring in 29 points per game.
Player Pictured: Mark Jackson
With yet another season of the Pacers trying to break through, things fell apart for Indiana, dropping to a 38-43 record and missing the playoffs completely. Despite Miller and Smits playing in their primes, Indiana took a step back and was unable to repeat its successes of the previous two seasons. Following the conclusion of the season, Larry Brown was let go.
Player Pictured: Chris Mullin
Thus began a three-year run that was the height of the Pacers' NBA success. With Larry Bird as the newly-named head coach, Indiana quickly got back on track and won 58 games, reaching the Eastern Conference Finals once again. The Pacers' trip to the Finals was blocked this time around by Michael Jordan's Bulls, who beat Indiana 88-83 in Game 7 of the series.
Player Pictured: Derrick McKey
In a lockout shortened series, the Pacers finished the year strong, winning their final four games before the playoffs. Indiana swept through the first two rounds, tossing arisde the Bucks and the 76ers to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the fourth time in the last six seasons. But battling for a spot in the Finals, it was the Knicks who came out on top, dispatching the Pacers 4-2.
Player Pictured: Jalen Rose
The 1999-00 season would go down as one of the most memorable in franchise history. After blowing through the regular season, the Pacers knocked out the same two teams as the previous season, the Bucks and 76ers, to once again face the Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals. This time around, however, the Pacers got past their Eastern Conference foes, advancing to the franchise's first and only appearance in the NBA Finals.
Player Pictured: Al Harrington
When Bird took over as coach in 1997-98, he had been open about his intentions to only coach for the team for three seasons, stepping down following the Pacers' trip to the Finals. Over the offseason, the Pacers hired Isiah Thomas as head coach, but Indiana struggled to repeat its success of the previous year, going 41-41 and losing to the 76ers in the first round of the playoffs.
Player Pictured: Metta World Peace (Ron Artest)
Still looking to get back to the heights of their success, the Pacers had another disappointing season, winning just one more game than the previous year. Once again the Pacers were knocked out in the first round, this time by the New Jersey Nets.
Player Pictured: Austin Croshere
The 2002-03 season would end up being Thomas' final year as coach as the Pacers were knocked out in the first round for the third consecutive year. With Reggie Miller nearing the end of his career at age 37, young players like Jermaine O'Neal and Ron Artest led the team in scoring, averaging 20.8 and 15.5 points, respectively.
Player Pictured: Jeff Foster
With Rick Carlisle named the new head coach of the Pacers, Indiana broke out of its three-year rut following its trip to the Finals. The Pacers won 61 games, the most in franchise history, and reached the Eastern Conference Finals. After dispatching the Celtics and the Heat, Indiana squared off with the Detroit Pistons, but the Pistons ended up on top, beating the Pacers 4-2 to deny Indiana a trip to its second NBA Finals.
Player Pictured: Jonathan Bender
Although they were looking to build on success, the Pacers ended up having a rough year for the franchise as a whole, with a now-infamous fight against the Detroit Pistons resulting in lengthy suspensions for a number of Pacers players. Indiana still managed to make the playoffs and even advanced past the first round, but was knocked out by the Pistons in six games.
Player Pictured: Danny Granger
For the first time since the 1986-87 season, the Pacers roster didn't include Reggie Miller, who retired following the 2004-05 season. The Pacers made the playoffs at 41-41, but were knocked out by the New Jersey Nets in the opening round of the playoffs.
Player Pictured: Troy Murphy
The 2006-07 season would end up being Rick Carlisle's final year as head coach as the Pacers dropped to a 35-47 record and missed the playoffs for the first time since the 1996-97 season.
Player Pictured: Marquis Daniels
In 2007, Jim O'Brien was named head coach of the Pacers, but Indiana struggled in his first year, finishing third in the Central Division with a 36-46 record. Danny Granger led the Pacers in scoring with 19.6 points per game.
Player Pictured: T.J. Ford
The 2009 NBA Draft landed the Pacers center Roy Hibbert, who would be a cornerstone of future success. While the Pacers had the same record as the previous season, Granger lifted his scoring average to a lofty 25.8 points per game, pulling down 5.1 rebounds as well.
Player Pictured: Roy Hibbert
In 2009-10, the Pacers suffered yet another disappointing season, missing the postseason for the fourth year in a row. Granger again led the team in scoring but Roy Hibbert was starting to come into his own, averaging 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds.
Player Pictured: Josh McRoberts
The 2010 NBA Draft would turn out to be one of the most pivotal moments for the Pacers in franchise history. With the 10th pick, Indiana selected Paul George, who is on pace to become one of the top Pacers players in team history. As a rookie, George played in 20 minutes per games and averaged 7.8 points. Midway through the season, O'Brien was relieved of his head coaching duties and the interim job was given to his assistant, Frank Vogel, who helped steer the Pacers to a postseason berth where they lost in five games to the Chicago Bulls.
Player Pictured: Lance Stephenson
Over the offseason, the Pacers acquired George Hill and David West, building its core of success with West, Hill, George, Hibbert, and Stephenson. During the postseason, Indiana advanced past the first round for the first time since 2005 and was then knocked out by LeBron James and the Heat in the second round.
Player Pictured: David West
Indiana continued to improve in its second full season coached by Vogel, winning 49 games and advancing all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. For the first season of his career, Paul George led the Pacers in scoring, making a name for himself on the national stage by going toe-to-toe with LeBron James in a thrilling seven-game Eastern Conference Finals series against the Heat.
Player Pictured: Paul George
The following season, Indiana came out motivated, capturing the top seed in the Eastern Conference and again advancing to an Eastern Conference showdown with James' Heat. This time, Miami won the battle in six games, sending the Pacers into what would end up being a tumultuous offseason.
Player Pictured: George Hill
While participating in a scrimmage for Team USA, Paul George broke his leg, knocking him out for nearly the entire 2014-15 season. Without George, Indiana struggled, especially since George Hill missed 38 games due to injury and Lance Stephenson departed in free agency. George returned with six games remaining and was part of an impressive playoff push by the Blue & Gold, but the Pacers ended up falling one game short of making the postseason.
Player Pictured: Myles Turner
With George fully healthy and rookie Myles Turner added over the offseason through the draft, the Pacers once again fought back to the playoffs. In his first full season since his injury, George averaged a career-high 23.1 points per game to help lead the Pacers. In the first round, Indiana pushed the second-seeded Raptors to seven games, but were knocked out by DeMar DeRozan and company.
Player Pictured: Jeff Teague
The 2016-17 was the first for head coach Nate McMillan, and the Pacers rallied for the final stretch of games to secure a postseason berth. Matched up against LeBron James and the Cavaliers, Cleveland eliminated Indiana, sending the Pacers into the offseason following their 50th season of basketball.