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50 greatest Indiana Pacers of all time: top 10



Here it is, the ten best players in Pacers history. Got beef with our list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

50 greatest Indiana Pacers of all time: 20-11

  • Courtesy of Indiana Pacers
  • Dale Davis

No. 10 -- Dale Davis (1991-2000, 2005)
POS: PF / C PPG: 9.3 REB: 9.0 BLK: 1.3 FG%: 54.3

Double-D earned a living cleaning glass. In nearly 10 seasons with the Pacers, Davis became the franchise’s all-time leading rebounder from the NBA era. He grabbed more than 6,000 boards, including a Pacers all-time best 2,276 offensive rebounds. Coupled with his interior defense (including 904 blocked shots), Davis’ raw, no-frills game helped the team to five Eastern Conference Finals and their only NBA Finals appearance to date. Though Davis was superseded in notoriety and by teammates like Reggie Miller and Rik Smits, Davis remained a respected player around the league and was voted to the 2000 All-Star game as a reserve by NBA coaches.

GET YOUNGER: After losing the NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Pacers traded Davis to the Portland Trailblazers in an effort to get a younger roster. In return, they received an unproven talent out of high school. His name? Jermaine O’Neal.

  • Courtesy of Indiana Pacers
  • Billy Knight

No. 9 -- Billy Knight (1974-1977, 1979-1983)
POS: SF PPG: 18.4 REB: 5.9 AST: 2.4 FG%: 51.3

Knight just missed the Pacers’ ABA dynasty, arriving the season after the team’s third and final championship in 1974. But Knight came close to winning a title of his own, scoring 17 points per game his rookie season to help push the team to its fifth ABA Finals (losing to the Kentucky Colonels, 4-1). Knight’s next two seasons were his best, averaging more than 26 points and making back-to-back All-Star appearances. He was traded to Buffalo in 1977 but returned to the Pacers the following year, where he continued lighting up the scoreboard. By his final year in 1983, Knight was the team’s all-time leading scorer with 10,780 points -- a mark later eclipsed only by Rik Smits and Reggie Miller.

RARE COMPANY: Billy Knight and Don Buse are the only Pacers selected to the ABA and NBA All-Star games. Knight played in the final ABA All-Star game in 1976 and played in the NBA All-Star game the following season.

  • Courtesy of Indiana Pacers
  • Danny Granger

No. 8 -- Danny Granger (2005-2014)
POS: SF PPG: 17.6 REB: 4.9 FG%: 43.5 3P%: 38.2

Granger was the Pacers’ first standout player to emerge following Reggie Miller’s retirement. Drafted 17th overall in 2005, he developed into a go-to scorer and became an All-Star in 2009, averaging 25.8 points per game. Still, Indiana missed the postseason four of his first five years, fueling Granger’s critics who said he put up good numbers on bad squads. Granger was vindicated in 2011 and 2012 when he remained the Pacers’ leading scorer for teams that became foils for LeBron James and the Miami Heat. As quickly as Granger matured, knee injuries took their toll. Before he was traded to in 2014 to Philadelphia, Granger played just 75 games during a three-year period and was rendered a shell of his old dynamic self.

THE HERO WE DESERVE: Danny Granger is such a fan of Batman, he had a batcave built into his New Mexico home after signing a $60 million contract extension in 2009.

  • Courtesy of Indiana Pacers
  • Jermaine O'Neal

No. 7 -- Jermaine O’Neal (2000-2008)
POS: PF / C PPG: 18.6 REB: 9.6 BLK: 2.4 FG%: 45.8

O’Neal’s arrival marked a transition phase for the Pacers, who exchanged an aging core for a younger roster. O’Neal was an unproven prospect out of high school and received little playing time as a member of the Portland Trailblazers. Upon being acquired by Indiana, he grew into the most complete big man the team ever had in its NBA era. He was as potent in the post as he was from midrange and is the team’s all-time leading shot blocker (1,245). He made six All-Star appearances in eight years and finished third in MVP voting in 2004, the same season he led the team to the Eastern Conference Finals. O’Neal looked to be the anchor for a new era of Pacers basketball, but injuries made his hefty contract a burden. He was traded to Toronto in 2008, where he turned into a journeyman.

SORRY: In a 2012 Grantland article, O’Neal expressed remorse for his role in the Pacers-Pistons brawl (he was suspended 15 games). “I don’t know if I could ever apologize to the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana for that enough,” he said.

  • Courtesy of Indiana Pacers
  • Rik Smits

No. 6 -- Rik Smits (1988-2000)
POS: C PPG: 14.8 REB: 6.1 BLK: 1.3 FG%: 50.7

At a towering 7-foot-4, the Dunking Dutchman is the tallest player in Pacers history and an all-time fan favorite. He played his entire career with Indiana while averaging double-digit points and serving as a worthy compliment to Reggie Miller. He is perhaps best remembered on the court for his performance in the 1995 playoffs, in which he averaged 20 points, 7 rebounds and sunk the game-winning shot against the Orlando Magic in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Foot injuries plagued Smits for much of his career, but he managed to play in 867 games -- second most in Pacers history. He retired after the 1999-2000 season, but not before helping the team reach the NBA Finals and making a lone All-Star appearance in 1998.

RIDIN’ DIRTY: Upon retiring, Smits began competing in vintage motorcycle racing. He flourished in his new hobby despite his cumbersome size, earning a national award in 2008.

  • Courtesy of Indiana Pacers
  • Paul George

No. 5 -- Paul George (2010 - Present)
POS: SF PPG: 16.9 REB: 6.2 STL: 1.7 FG%: 42.5

In terms of raw talent, the Pacers have never had a player as awesome as PG in their NBA era. A do-it-all threat with length, athleticism, shooting and shut-down defense, George is the catalyst for Indiana’s success in the past decade. He’s only 26 and has already made three All-Star games, three All-NBA teams, and back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference Finals. Though a compound fracture in his right leg suffered in 2014 during a Team USA scrimmage looked to derail his career, George responded last season with his best year ever, setting new marks in points, rebounds and steals. He remains the go-to guy and should benefit from a refurbished offense that will quicken the pace. PG looks to be in store for a historic season as he enters his prime. He could become the greatest Pacer ever if he sticks around long enough.

HE GOT GAMERS: PG graces the cover of NBA 2K17, the latest installment in the popular NBA video game franchise released in September. He is the first Pacer to make such an appearance.

  • Courtesy of Indiana Pacers
  • Roger Brown

No. 4 -- Roger Brown (1967-1974, 1975)
POS: SF PPG: 18.0 REB: 6.5 AST: 4.0 FG%: 47.1

Never was a player so good been seen by so few. A high school star from Brooklyn, Brown was banned from the NCAA and NBA after being wrongly associated with an illegal point shaving operation. When the Pacers joined the ABA in 1967, Brown worked for General Motors while playing in amatuer leagues. He was the first Pacer signed to a contract and quickly became one of the league’s elite talents. He made the All-Star game in his rookie year, doing so three more times by 1972. But Brown became legendary in the postseason, leading the team in scoring four times and winning a trio of championships. Brown burned bright for five seasons, but did so at a time when few basketball games were broadcast on TV. He made the Hall of Fame and his jersey number (35) is retired by Indiana, but his passing from colon cancer in 1997 has left his story to be told by others.

PUBLIC OFFICIAL: Brown was elected to an at-large seat on the Indianapolis City Council in 1971.

  • Courtesy of Indiana Pacers
  • George McGinnis

No. 3 -- George McGinnis (1971-1975, 1980-1982)
POS: PF PPG: 19.6 REB: 10.7 AST: 3.3 FG%: 46.2

McGinnis is a Circle City talent who excelled on the court at every level. He led Washington High School to an undefeated season in 1969 and averaged 30 points and 15 rebounds in his only season at IU, becoming the first sophomore to lead the Big Ten in both categories. He peaked with the Pacers, where he remains the all-time leader in points per game (19.6). He won back-to-back titles his first two years with the team and averaged a double-double from 1973 to 1975. He led the ABA in scoring with 29.8 points per game in 1975, the same year he won the ABA MPV. He joined Philadelphia the following year and began a successful NBA career. McGinnis returned to Indiana in 1980 a shell of his former self, but forever ranks among the franchise’s all-time players.

LOOK, MOM. NO HANDS!: McGinnis holds the all-time record for turnovers in a single season, coughing up the rock 422 times in 1974-75, averaging 5.3 turnovers per game.

  • Courtesy of Indiana Pacers
  • Mel Daniels

No. 2 -- Mel Daniels (1968-1974)
POS: C PPG: 19.4 REB: 16.0 FG%: 48.3

Daniels is the most decorated player in Pacers history: a six time All-Star, four time All-ABA selection, three time champ, two time MVP and Hall of Fame selection in 2012. He was Rookie of the Year in 1968 as a member of the Minnesota Muskies (it’s a fish), but was traded to Indiana when the Muskies went belly up after one season. In the next six years, he ranked among the ABA’s preeminent talents, hounding boards and hogging the paint to become one of the most formidable post threats of his generation. But as competitive and combative as he was on the hardwood, away from the court he was just as thoughtful and kindhearted. Teammates and former opponents speak to his gentle nature, and he wrote many poems that recall his personal life and playing days. Daniels passed away in 2015. He was 71.

BIRD’S THE WORD: After retiring, Daniels joined the coaching staff at Indiana State, where he coached future Hall of Famer and current Pacers GM, Larry Bird.

  • Courtesy of Indiana Pacers

No. 1 -- Reggie Miller (1987-2005)
POS: SG PPG: 18.2 FG%: 47.1 3P%: 39.5 AST: 3.0

Thousands of fans cheered Reggie Miller’s name during his historic run with the Pacers, but his time in Indiana began with a chorus of boos. On the night of the 1987 draft, many hoped the team would select IU standout and Franklin native, Steve Alford. When Miller, a gangling guard from UCLA, was taken with the 11th pick, the reaction was mixed. But while Alford played just four unremarkable seasons in the league, Miller suited up for 1,389 games -- the fourth most in NBA history with one team -- and delivered a bevy of iconic moments.

The Reggie Miller that posterity will remember was born June 1, 1994 during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Before then, MIller was a one time All-Star and dynamite shooter. But after scoring 39 points (25 coming in the fourth quarter) and converting 6-of-11 from downtown in a do-or-die situation, Miller demonstrated his clutch-time gusto and displayed his schoolyard bona fides by giving the choke sign to director Spike Lee, who sat courtside. The Pacers left with a 93-86 win, and Miller became a household name.

More memorable moments were to come -- scoring eight points in 8.9 seconds, sinking a game-winner over Michael Jordan in the playoffs, becoming the first Pacer to play in the Olympics. By the time Uncle Reggie hung up his shoes in 2005, he led the Pacers to their only NBA Finals appearance, played in six Eastern Conference Finals, five All-Star games and the was leading 3-point shooter in NBA history.

But it isn’t the wins and highlights that make Reggie the greatest Pacer -- every player on this countdown can claim such achievements. What separates him is a sense of pride in the city and state he represented. Indiana was his team, and Reggie was Indiana’s man. He received a final ovation during his last game. Miller pointed to the crowd and placed his other hand over his heart, the word “Indiana” embroidered on the jersey. The California kid became a Hoosier, and he’ll always be one of us.

GOING OUT IN STYLE: After his final regular season game with the Pacers (an 85-83 win over Chicago), Miller was gifted a Bentley automobile by team owners Herb and Mel Simon during a post-game ceremony.


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