Indiana Pacers: NBA Brawls, Finals, and Collapse
Indiana Pacers History and Highlights.
Founding and Early Years
The Indiana Pacers were founded in 1967 and joined the NBA in 1976. In the beginning, the Pacers competed in the ABA League, winning three championships in 1970, 1972, and 1973.
The Pacers were one of four teams that joined the NBA with the ABA merger in 1976. Unfortunately, the following decade didn’t bring any success for the Pacers. That had a lot to do with their terrible decision to trade Alex English to the Denver Nuggets for George McGinnis in 1980.
The team progressed every year, and the crucial point in the Pacers’ history came in 1987 when they drafted Reggie Miller. Miller would go on to spend the next 18 seasons with the team, becoming one of the best shooters in the NBA history.
In the first 8 seasons with Miller on the team, the Indiana Pacers were around 50% and were in and out of the Playoffs without making any notable success. But with the acquisition of coach Larry Brown in 1993, things changed for good.
In the first season under coach Brown, the Pacers won their first Playoff series sweeping the Orlando Magic in the opening round. After that, the Pacers made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they played the New York Knicks. Game 5 of that series brought one of the most iconic moments in the history of the team and the NBA Playoffs in general. The series was tied at 2-2, and the Knicks had a 15-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
Reggie Miller went on to score 25 points in the finals quarter, including 8 points in 9 seconds to win the game for the Pacers. The Knicks eventually won the final two games of the series to advance to the NBA Finals.
After four years, coach Brown stepped down as the Indiana Pacers coach and was replaced by a local hero named Larry Bird.
Bird took over a roster that was ready to compete for the title. In his first season with the team, Bird led the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they pushed Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls to seven games.
The biggest success in the Indiana Pacers’ history came in 2000, when Indiana made their first and the only NBA Finals appearance so far. They defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and New York Knicks to advance to the NBA Finals, where they collided with the Los Angeles Lakers. Reggie Miller and Jalen Rose played an amazing series, but the Pacers couldn’t hold off the Lakers with Shaquille O’Neal in his prime and young and emerging Kobe Bryant.
Larry Bird stepped down as a head coach after the finals loss and he was replaced by another local legend, Isiah Thomas. He got off to a solid start, building a young team around veteran Reggie Miller. Despite many roster changes, the Indiana Pacers remained one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
Unfortunately, those days in the Pacers history will not be remembered by some basketball success, but by the biggest incident in NBA history.
On November 19, 2004, the Indiana Pacers visited the Detroit Pistons. Both teams met in the NBA Playoffs the previous year, and things were heated up from the very beginning. In the final minute of the game, Pacers’ Ron Artest and Pistons’ Ben Wallace started a brawl that is remembered as one of the lowest moments in NBA history. Artest, Stephen Jackson, and Jermanine O’Neal went on to fight the fans in the stands, which resulted in huge suspensions that put an early end to a season that could have been a winning one for the Pacers.
That team soon broke up, and it was time for another rebuild. The next star player on the team was Danny Granger, who unfortunately couldn’t lead the team to any significant Playoff success, just like Paul George after him.
Today, as they go through the rebuilding process, the Indiana Pacers are now one of the worst-performing teams in the Eastern Conference.