Scott Agness headshot

Slick Leonard Publishes Book On His Life

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

November 15, 2013

Bobby ‘Slick’ Leonard is a basketball legend in Indiana, and stories from his decorated career – playing, coaching and broadcasting – can all be read in his new book, Boom Baby!: My Basketball Life in Indiana.

Leonard, 81, the color analyst on Pacers radio broadcasts since 1985, has been asked to write a book by dozens of fans going back 20 to 30 years. Each time, he declined – until recently.

“I’m not getting any younger, so I wanted to do something kind of like a legacy for my kids and my grandkids,” Leonard said.

The book, written with Lew Freedman, came out Friday and is available both on Amazon and in bookstores throughout Indiana. Pacers President Larry Bird wrote the foreword.

Leonard said every part of his life is covered – his early years in Terre Haute, NCAA Championship at Indiana University, playing days in the NBA, coaching career and as the famed analyst on Pacers broadcasts.

Leonard grew up around Marines, who were like his big brothers.

“The Marines were on the beach landings in the South Pacific and they came back and took me under their wing and got me started in basketball,” he said.

At Indiana, he sank game-winning free throws to lift the Hoosiers past the Kansas Jayhawks in 1953 national title game.

“We had a great ball club there,” Leonard recalled. “As a matter of fact, we should’ve won back-to-back NCAA Championships. We won it in 1953. We should’ve won it in ’54. We were rated No. 1 in the country the whole year.”

Leonard spent a few years in the Army before moving on to his professional playing career (1956-1963). Leonard details some of his toughest opponents, like Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Bill Russell, and Wilt Chamberlain. He explains how everything worked back then, including travel. They didn’t have charter planes nor did they stay in five-class hotels.

“There are stories all along the way,” he said. “A lot of pictures were submitted and really I wanted more pictures in the book than there actually is.”

Leonard was the head coach from 1968-80, and he was a big part of their success. The Pacers were arguably the most dominant team in the ABA, and they won three championships – 1969, 1970, 1971. In the book, he touches on things that happened with some of the franchise’s greats like Roger Brown, Mel Daniels and George McGinnis.

“It’s kind of a history of the ABA and NBA going back,” he said.

Freedman, the co-author of the book, spent time with others around Leonard’s life to get their perspective of Slick – including the longtime radio voice of the Pacers, Mark Boyle.

Leonard is man responsible for “Boom, Baby!” – the phrase he shouts on the radio whenever a Pacers player connects on a 3-pointer – and the book is appropriately titled that. He explained how the phrase, which he has copyrighted, originated.

“We were in the seventh game [of the division finals in 1975]. Larry Brown was coaching the Denver Nuggets and we were in the seventh game out in Denver. It went down to the wire and they had a two-point lead on us. We had the ball out of bounds. That’s when I had [George] McGinnis and we setup a play to go directly from half-court to George.

“Seven seconds left on the clock. We got the ball into George, and when we did, all five Denver guys surrounded him and George jumped up in the air, twisted and he hit Billy Keller over in the far corner. When Billy released the ball, the gun went [off]. When it hit through there, I said, ‘Boom,’ then I added, ‘Baby!’ That’s the first time I ever said it. After that, I didn’t ever say it until it got started with Reggie [Miller]. We won the series against Denver and they had had a big year because they had an outstanding club.”

When Leonard joined Boyle for radio broadcasts, the first time he used the phrase, “Mark didn’t know what the hell was going on,” said Leonard. “It surprised him and then we went with it.”

Leonard loves how it quickly caught on, even seeing “Go Pacers, Boom Baby!” on the top of on the Chase Tower in downtown Indianapolis.

“The biggest thing is that it caught on with the kids,” he said. “You can go around to playgrounds, you could go to backyards, here there and everywhere. These kids are out playing, shooting 3s and saying ‘Boom Baby!’ It caught on.”

Leonard has a number of book signings. Saturday, he’ll be at Costco on Michigan Road and Sunday, he’ll be back in Bloomington to sign in the Assembly Hall gift shop ahead of the Hoosiers basketball game. He also plans to sign at the Indiana Historical Society’s annual book fair.

2013-14 Season Tickets »
Playoff Priority, Biggest Games, Best Pricing

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Scott Agness are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.