The 1969-70 ABA Champion Pacers
A Look Back at the Roster with Updates on the Six Living Members of the Team
These are the 10 players who comprised the playoff roster for the Pacers' 1970 championship team and their regular season averages.
Where are they now?
Four of the 10 players on the Pacers' 1970 playoff roster have passed away: Roger Brown, Mel Daniels, John Barnhill, and Jay Miller. The remaining members are spread throughout the country:
Art Becker (Tempe, Ariz.): Acquired in a preseason trade with the Carolina Cougars, much to his relief and to the Pacers' benefit. Was an ABA All-Star in the league's first season two years earlier when he averaged 18.8 points for Houston. Was a solid reserve on this team, hitting 52 percent of his field goal attempts and scoring in double figures in six playoff games.
He was traded to Denver the following season but remembers his season-and-a-half with the Pacers as the highlight of his six-season professional career.
"It was just magical for me," he says. "The community was great. People would know who you are everywhere you went."
Becker's favorite memory was getting a press pass for the Indianapolis 500 and watching the race from inside the first turn. "It was just crazy," he says. "I might have taken a couple of pictures."
Has lived in Arizona since retiring in 1973 but stays in touch with his former roommate, Keller, and Netolicky. Also saw Thacker a few years ago when Thacker was passing through the Tempe area, and returns occasionally for reunions.
Oliver Darden (Sunrise, Fla.): A starter on the original Pacers team two years earlier. There's credible evidence he scored the first basket in franchise history. Was traded away the following season and then reacquired during this season — and then released again in training camp the following season.
Fed up with the uncertainty of pro basketball and having options, he retired instead of trying to land a spot with another team and went on to have the most successful career of all the members of this team in financial terms.
He worked for Eli Lilly for a while, then State Farm Insurance for 15 years. He earned a Masters degree from Northwestern in 1982 and eventually accumulated 15 Burger King franchises. He sold those in 2002 and has been retired since.
Played a major role off the bench in one of the first-round victories over Carolina after Daniels got in foul trouble.
Stays in close touch with former Pacers teammate Jerry Harkness and returns to Indianapolis often.
Billy Keller (Bloomington, Ind. in summer, St. Petersburg, Fla. in winter): Considered a novelty by some fans at first, he earned everyone's respect in short order. He was particularly effective in the playoffs after getting a starting opportunity when Lewis became ill before the opener of the second round against Kentucky.
Scored in double figures in 10 consecutive games in the postseason, outplaying Kentucky's All-Star guard Louie Dampier in the second round and then outplaying L.A.'s first-team all-rookie guard Mack Calvin in the first four games of the finals.
Went on to play seven seasons for the Pacers and remains one of the most popular players in Indiana's basketball history. Has rings for a high school state championship, an NCAA runner-up finish, and three ABA titles.
"He earned his opportunity to play," Darden says. "He practiced really hard. He was a hustler who took nothing for granted. He made himself into a very good ballplayer."
Freddie Lewis (Washington, D.C.): Point guard and captain of all three Pacers championship teams. Major contributor who deferred much of his potential scoring to the frontline players.
"Mel and Roger wouldn't have been what they were without Freddie," Becker says.
Averaged 16.4 points during the regular season but raised that to 20.4 in the playoffs. Averaged 26.5 points in the first round against Carolina. The Pacers' only loss in the first two rounds was the one he sat out with the flu.
Spends most of his time today caring for his mother, but remains in contact with several former teammates and attends reunions.
Bob Netolicky (Austin, Texas): The team's best water-skier was also its most consistent player. Averaged 20.6 points during the regular season, 20.3 in the postseason, and 20.3 in the finals against the Stars. Scored in double figures every game and 30 or more three times.
Voted to play in the All-Star Game his first four seasons.
"He could rebound, he could run the floor, he had that 15-18 foot jump shot...he was just a damn good player," coach Bob Leonard says. "But you had to beat it out of him."
Moved to Austin last summer to be with his daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids. Has led an effort to get pension money for ABA players for several years and knows the whereabouts of just about every living ABA player.
Tom Thacker (Cincinnati, Ohio): Only man to have played on NCAA, NBA, and ABA championship teams. Won one in the semi-pro North American Basketball League as well.
Not a shooter but contributed everything else. Biggest playoff moment in this season came in Game 6 against the Stars when he played 33 minutes off the bench and contributed 11 points and 10 assists.
Nicknamed "Dogg" in college after a cartoon character. Carried influence in the locker room as a veteran leader and team psychologist who knew how to motivate.
Has been a regular attendee of Pacers games for several years as well as their annual golf outing. Suffered a stroke last year and is rehabilitating.
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Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.
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