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Brown Has His Day

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

September 8, 2013

Though he couldn’t physically attend his much-awaited day, you could sense Roger Brown smiling down as his basketball career was immortalized. On this day, Brown, who overcame unfair accusations and ridicule early in his career, was recognized by basketball royalty as he officially entered the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

“People want to say that I put the Indiana Pacers on the map,” Hall of Famer Reggie Miller said in Brown’s tribute video. “No. It all started with Roger Brown.”

At 26 years of age, Brown became the first player to ever sign with the Pacers – back in 1967. He would play eight seasons with the ABA Pacers, leading them to titles in 1970, 1972 and 1973. He earned ABA Playoff MVP honors in 1970 and was an All-Star for half of his career. And he was a big reason that the Pacers were the most dominant team in the ABA, which existed for eight years.

Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing just over 200 pounds, Brown’s game was silky smooth. A native of Brooklyn, Brown impacted the game in so many ways and could be counted on in crunch time.

“When they needed a basket, they would go to Roger,” Julius Irving added in the video. “Everybody in the building knew they were going to Roger, including the guy guarding him.”

Yet that didn’t stop Brown. He became the first ABA player in history to record more than 10,000 points.

More than two-dozen friends, former teammates and coaches were on hand to celebrate Brown’s accomplishments, resulting in his Hall of Fame induction.

Unfortunately, Brown was diagnosed with liver cancer in 1996 and passed away a year later, on March 4, 1997. He was just 54.

“Mel, Reggie, this is truly a treasure,” Brown’s son, Roger Jr., said in his speech on video. “There is nothing more bestowing than having two Pacers legends ushering a fellow Pacer legend through the doors of the Hall of Fame.”

In his 85-second speech, Brown Jr. was sure to single out Ted Green, an Indianapolis filmmaker who produced the documentary, “Undefeated: The Roger Brown Story.” Brown Jr. thanked Green for his “unwavering commitment and dedication.” Green now has a documentary in the works for Bobby ‘Slick’ Leonard, and maybe, like with Brown, it will serve as a reminder to voters and be enough to finally get Slick in.

On this day, as Brown was honored, it’s also hard not to feel excited for Mel Daniels, who presented Brown along with Miller. He missed his induction ceremony last year because he was home in Indy on doctor’s orders due to a urinary tract disorder.

“He was the best I’ve ever seen,” Daniels said of Brown.

Brown is one of four Pacers to have his jersey, No. 35, retired by the team – and now hanging in the rafters of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. And he’s just the third Pacers player in the Hall.

This day is not only special to the Brown family, but also to the Pacers organization and the Indianapolis community. The Hall of Fame has spoken and welcomed the third Pacers player into the eternal club of greatness.

Alas, Mr. Roger Brown – the Hall of Famer – you’re in.

Note: Pacers President Larry Bird presented Brazilian Oscar Schmidt, the all-time leading scorer in Olympic history.

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