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Friday, February 28, 2014

Basketball Hall of Fame Finally Honors Bobby "Slick" Leonard

I am delighted that the Basketball Hall of Fame's ABA Committee has made another fine selection, tapping Bobby "Slick" Leonard for induction in the fall of 2014. Leonard led the Pacers to three ABA titles (1970, 1972-73) and five ABA Finals appearances. Leonard's Pacers were the Boston Celtics of the ABA and they had the upper hand in their "Interstate 65" rivalry with the Kentucky Colonels, winning three of their five head to head playoff series. Leonard's coaching accomplishments alone merit Hall of Fame induction, but it is worth noting that Leonard also twice earned All-America honors as a player at Indiana University and he starred on their 1953 NCAA championship team. He enjoyed a solid NBA playing career, averaging 9.9 ppg in seven seasons (including a career-high 16.1 ppg in 1961-62), before becoming a coach.

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Chairman Jerry Colangelo deserves credit for living up to his pledge to recognize worthy individuals who "slipped through the cracks" and did not get inducted when they should have been. Under Colangelo's watch, the newly formed ABA Committee has finally inducted Artis Gilmore plus Leonard's Indiana Pacers' stars Mel Daniels and Roger Brown.

For the past 29 years, Leonard has been the color commentator for the Pacers' radio broadcasts. His signature "Boom, Baby!" call is one of the most famous catchphrases in pro basketball. Whenever I cover a Pacers' home game it is always a treat to speak with Leonard about pro basketball past and present. The stories he told me about Sam Jones, Gus Johnson, Roger Brown and James Silas enriched the articles that I wrote about those players.

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:35 AM



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