Where Are They Now? Freddie Lewis

By Conrad Brunner

After 23 years away from Indianapolis, Freddie Lewis has returned home.

One of only two players to have won an ABA championship and then played with the team in the NBA, Lewis retired after the 1976-77 season and moved to California, where he spent nearly two decades working for Ozzie and Dan Silna, the former owners of the St. Louis Spirits. Lewis spent his final ABA season with the Spirits before rejoining the Pacers in 1976 as a free agent.

He then moved to Washington, D.C., where he was an inner-city schoolteacher, working with young teens, many troubled.

''Those are difficult years for inner-city kids, kids coming from single-parent homes,'' he said. ''It was really tough, because these kids are one step from jail. Just dealing with them, I took a lot of them under my wing. After three years, I probably had about 125 or 130 kids that I was constantly having to go help and tutor. I learned to love them and they looked at me as sort of a father.''

Though Lewis had to leave that extended family behind, he is developing another. He moved to Indianapolis with plans of joining the staff of ABA 2000, and indeed took over as head coach from former teammate Billy Keller during the franchise's final season. Lewis is also working with youth once again, organizing night basketball leagues for the Indianapolis Housing Authority.

''I was trying to help put together the new ABA league and it fell through,'' Lewis said. ''They didn't have any money to pay me, so they told me they didn't have a job to offer, so I've just been kind of hanging around here trying to do whatever I can in the community.''

Lewis, 59, has three grown children and five grandchildren, and hopes to settle in the city where he helped establish a basketball legend. A member of the original ABA Pacers in 1967, he played a prominent role on the three championship teams, averaging 16.6 points, 4.1 assists and 4.0 rebounds in seven seasons. A year after the final title was won in 1973, Lewis and fellow franchise cornerstone Mel Daniels were traded to Memphis in return for cash and backup guard Charlie Edge.

Despite all the years away, Lewis still considers Indianapolis his basketball home. He was a frequent visitor during training camp, and intends to be around as much as possible.

''I try to be involved in any way that I can, and always call and ask if there's anything I can do,'' he said. ''This is where I played the majority of my career. I was traded twice in a period of 12 years, and I played nine years here. This is my team."

Now, it is his home, as well.


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