Leonard Eyeing Return to Pacers Broadcasts
Slick Leonard is hoping to return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for broadcasts soon after the conclusion of the All-Star break. Until then, he'll continue healing from the fall that has kept him housebound since Dec. 23 and refuse to feel sorry for himself.
Leonard has been battling health issues since March 13, 2011, when he suffered a heart attack on the Pacers' team bus following a victory over New York in Madison Square Garden. His heart has operated at about one-third normal capacity since then, which has led to other problems. A couple of falls, most recently while walking down a step to get into his car for the trip downtown for the game against Washington two days before Christmas, have forced him into long periods of rehabilitation.
"I've learned a lot going through this," he said from his home last week. "But my life has been so damn blessed, there are no complaints."
Leonard has a hematoma – a collection of blood outside of the blood vessels – on his leg, and is under strict orders from his doctor not to go out in public where the risk of infection would be too great. An oxygen tank attached to his leg speeds recovery, and he says he's made significant improvement in the last 10-12 days.
"I'll get that thing healed up and I should be back before long," Leonard said. "I'm anxious to get out of the house.
"It's been a wakeup call for me, I'll tell you that. At my age, people have to be very careful and take things kind of slow."
Leonard has been reminded of that by the people he's met during his rehabilitation processes, many of whom were injured in a fall. But he's also been reminded of how fortunate he is in the bigger picture. One cue came via a telephone call from a woman related to the pilot of the team airplane that crash-landed in an Iowa cornfield while Leonard played for the Minneapolis Lakers.
About 20 people were aboard the plane on Jan. 18, 1960, and all survived. But only four of them are alive today: Leonard, Elgin Baylor, Dick Garmaker and Frank Selvy.
Leonard has a wife, Nancy, who looks after him around the clock, five children, 12 grandchildren and a sprouting collection of great-grandchildren. These days, that takes precedence over his All-American playing career and Hall of Fame coaching career.
"That's what life is all about," he said. "The name of the game is health and happiness. When you have those two things you have everything."
Basketball games don't hurt, either. Leonard follows the state's college teams on television and he listens to his broadcast partner and close friend Mark Boyle while watching on television whenever the Pacers play.
"It's a big night for me when Mark is on the radio," Leonard said. "When you're kind of incapacitated there are things you really look forward to, like a ballgame. It's fun for me. It's a good thing to have a game to fall back on."
And look forward to.
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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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