As George McGinnis sat in a chair with his brand new orange sports coat, indicating his enshrinement to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, his eyes lit up when asked what he remembered most about the ABA.
“Fast and furious,” McGinnis responded. “Up and down, 3-point shot.”
These were the hallmarks of McGinnis’ time with the Pacers, where he quickly ascended to a franchise star, winning the ABA Championship with Indiana in his first two seasons with the team in 1972 and ’73.
Two years after, he brought the Pacers back to the ABA Finals, sharing league MVP honors with Julius Erving in the process.
McGinnis fielded questions about his career from reporters for over 30 minutes following a press conference in which he received his coveted orange jacket, recalling memories from the entire spectrum of his life and career.
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It started early for McGinnis, as it does for most children in Indiana, with the worship of the stars of high school basketball. McGinnis recalled watching Oscar Robertson lead Crispus Attucks to a state championship win on the television in his living room.
“I remember when they were up there on the podium and they got the ring, that stuck in my mind,” said McGinnis, pointing to his temples. “The next day, every kid in our neighborhood was out shooting hoops. That’s what started it.”
Once the ball was rolling for McGinnis, it never seemed to stop.
He was a state champion with Indianapolis Washington, the leading scorer in the Big 10 for Indiana University, and eventually the ABA’s Most Valuable Player with the Pacers.
With accolades like that, it has surprised some observers — and even McGinnis himself at times — why it took so long for him to join his teammates Roger Brown and Mel Daniels, as well as his coach Bobby “Slick” Leonard, in the Hall of Fame.
But now that he’s in, he doesn’t hold any bitterness for the long wait. “Better now than never,” he said with a smile.
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With McGinnis being selected, the entire frontline of the 1972 and ’73 Pacers are in, solidifying the team as one of the best in the history of the game. And with great teams, come great friends — friends who McGinnis misses dearly as he prepares to be honored for his career of excellence.
“I can’t tell you how much I miss Mel Daniels and Roger Brown,” McGinnis said. “They both meant so much to me. They both meant so much to our team.”
For McGinnis, the enshrinement isn’t just for him. It’s for his wife, his family, his teammates and friends. His coaches, fans, and even his opponents.
For a kid from Indianapolis who was an unstoppable force at every level he played, McGinnis explained that his enshrinement is for everyone who ever supported him.
“The people who affected me on the basketball court or who helped me be the person I am because of the game. That’s what I’m sticking to,” he said. “I hope I represent myself and Indiana and the Hoosier spirit the way it should be.”