The Hall Finally Has a Slick Spot
Speaking from the heart, rather than a printed page, Bobby “Slick” Leonard was formally inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. on Friday.
“I may not be the oldest to be inducted in the Hall of Fame, but I bet I'm in the top five,” the 82-year-old Leonard said, probably accurately.
Leonard, who helped Indiana University to the NCAA championship in 1953 and coached the Pacers to three ABA championships, was the third person to be inducted during the ceremony. He spoke for 30 minutes, telling stories from his childhood, playing career and coaching career, and thanked his family and the fans of Indiana.
He was presented by fellow Hall of Famers Mel Daniels, the center on all three of the Pacers' title teams, and Pacers president Larry Bird, who Leonard nearly drafted for the Pacers following Bird's junior season at Indiana State in 1978.
Like Nolan Richardson and Gary Williams before him, Leonard spoke for 30 minutes.
“I don't know where the chairs are, boys,” Leonard said with a smile while turning toward Daniels and Bird as he began his speech, letting everyone know he was going to take his time.
He had a lifetime of stories to draw from. He told of the childhood prank of putting a snake in a neighbor woman's outhouse and then waiting to watch her bolt out of it … of the eight neighbors who survived World War II and put up a goal behind a neighbor's house where he honed his game … of hitting the game-winning foul shot in IU's championship win over Kansas after missing the first one, where he rebutted coach Branch McCracken's comment by saying he had ice water in his veins by saying, “If that was ice water, it sure felt warm when it was running down my leg,” … of George McGinnis deliberately running over Spurs guard George Karl in a playoff game in San Antonio.
Leonard, who was born and raised in Terre Haute, played college basketball in Bloomington, married a girl from South Bend, and has lived in Kokomo and Indianapolis (in the same house since 1969), gave special thanks to the fans of Indiana.
“I've had a love affair with the fans and people in the state of Indiana, and I wish it could last forever,” he said. “But I know better than that.”
He also provided a glimpse of his competitive nature when he mentioned his family's outing to the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut on Sunday.
“Those blackjack dealers better be careful with me, or I'll own the joint,” Leonard said.
Finally, Leonard gave a quick example of his flair for poetry.
“For me it took awhile, but I'm going out in style,” he said.
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