George McGinnis

McGinnis Can Put the Past Behind Him: He's in the Hall

by Mark Montieth Writer

The toughest part was holding it in. You experience one of the greatest moments of your life and you can't talk about it publicly for four days?

George McGinnis felt like he was going to burst last week, after learning on Tuesday he had been voted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Finally, belatedly and gratefully.

"Oh, my God," McGinnis recalled of his reaction when told of his selection — and of the need to keep quiet about it — last Tuesday. "How can you hold this? I couldn't wait until Saturday came. Saturday at 10 it started coming across the ticker in ESPN.

"I didn't have to tell anyone then. They all started calling me. It was crazy. I'm just overwhelmed at the amount of affection and how nice people have been to e-mail me or text me or call me."

McGinnis estimates he's heard from about 150 friends and former teammates, via text or e-mail. He hasn't had time to get back to everyone, and hasn't had time to respond to all interview requests, but has had time to let the joy and relief having been selected to the Hall sink in.

People around Indianapolis consider it long overdue. McGinnis was born and raised here, led Washington High School to an undefeated season and state championship in 1969, led Indiana University in scoring and rebounding in his only varsity season in 1971, then led the Pacers to two of their three ABA championships and took another underdog team to the Finals in 1975, when he was voted the league's co-Most Valuable Player with Julius Erving.

He went on to become a three-time NBA All-Star, in Philadelphia and Denver, but for some reason all of that wasn't enough to earn the same Hall of Fame recognition given to players who had never played in the NBA or didn't achieve McGinnis' status.

McGinnis didn't complain much about it but it nagged at his pride, especially while he watched former teammates Mel Daniels and Roger Brown go into the Hall of Fame, and then his coach, Slick Leonard. They had gone in as part of the special ABA Committee established by the Hall to recognize the players and coaches from that league, but when that committee was disbanded, McGinnis figured his chance was gone.

He got in via the Veterans Committee, which recognizes players whose careers have been over at least 35 years. Having finished his career with the Pacers in 1982, McGinnis was eligible to that group for the first time this year.

Now, there's no need to dwell on the past.

"I had put it in my back pocket," he said. "I moved away from it. I tried not to think about it and talk about it as much. It was almost to the point I said to hell with it. I know what I did. Guys who played against me know what I did. I'm not going to go through this process year after year.

"No one explained it to me, but that was completely eliminated from my thought after I learned I was selected. I don't care why it took so long. It's not important to me. I'm still living and breathing and I'm in now. I don't have to deal with the past. I think I was certainly deserving long before this, but, hey, there's other great players. I'm just glad I'm in there."

McGinnis, in fact, takes pride in being selected by the Veterans Committee, rather than the ABA Committee. He succeeded in the NBA as well, earning those All-Star selections and first-team All-NBA honors in his first season with the 76ers, in 1975-76 and second-team honors the following season.

"I feel more happy about the way I got in with this committee, because it focuses on all types of people, rather than people who played in one league," he said. "It's a broader reach."

A reach that finally tapped McGinnis on the shoulder.

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


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