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Saturday, August 09, 2014

Bobby "Slick" Leonard Remembers the ABA During his Basketball Hall of Fame Speech

On Friday night, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame enshrined Bobby "Slick" Leonard, who played on Indiana's 1953 NCAA championship team and enjoyed a seven year NBA career before coaching the ABA's Indiana Pacers to three league championships (1970, 1972-73). It is so wonderful to see Leonard finally, belatedly receive this long-overdue honor and it is great that he was able to share this moment with his beautiful family. I cannot offer enough praise for Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Chairman Jerry Colangelo, who played an integral role in forming the Hall of Fame's ABA Committee that inducted Artis Gilmore plus Leonard's Indiana Pacers' stars Mel Daniels and Roger Brown prior to selecting Leonard this year.

Leonard's Hall of Fame speech lasted nearly 27 minutes and touched upon his basketball career from his childhood days up to his still ongoing broadcasting career. He mentioned the four Hall of Fame players who he coached: Walt Bellamy, Gus Johnson, Roger Brown and Mel Daniels. The most meaningful segment for me is when he spoke, lovingly and with great passion, about the ABA. Here are some quotes from that portion of the speech:

"We had some great times in the ABA...They talk about the ABA like we were a minor league to the NBA. Well, I played in the NBA and that's not true. If you want to go back and look at the players we ended up with in the ABA before the merger, you're looking at Moses Malone, you're looking at the Iceman--George Gervin--you're looking at Dr. J--Julius Erving. I can go on, Dan Issel--by the time the merger came, and David (Stern) was there then, we had the players and they needed our players as bad as we needed them, 'cause we'd gone broke...I had a frontline with the Pacers--and I've seen them all, all the frontlines that have come down the pike in the last 60 years or so--with Mel Daniels in the middle, George McGinnis at one forward and Roger Brown at the other forward. Those guys could have competed against any frontline that I've seen. Those were great, fun days. I had that frontline and in the backcourt I had Freddie Lewis, Donnie Freeman, Billy Keller, Tommy Thacker. Backing up the guys up front I had Darnell Hillman and Bob Netolicky."

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:02 AM



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