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Thursday, March 02, 2023

The NBA Community Mourns the Loss of David Benner, the Pacers' P.R. Director for Three Decades

David Benner, who served for 28 years as the Indiana Pacers' Director of Media Relations before retiring prior to last season, passed away on Wednesday. He was 67. After his family announced his death, there has been an outpouring of sympathy from the NBA community. Pacers President Kevin Pritchard said, "It is difficult to put into words just what David Benner meant to the Indiana Pacers, the NBA, his family, and friends. He had an infectious personality and a wonderful sense of humor that was evident to anyone who was ever fortunate enough to meet him." 

I first met Benner in 2004 when I was a freelance writer just beginning to cover NBA games in person. He had a serious demeanor with those who he did not know well, but he was also courteous, helpful, and professional. It did not take long for me to understand why the Pacers' media relations staff under his direction was considered perhaps the best in the entire league; I always felt welcomed at Pacers games, and I would be surprised if any media member covering those games felt otherwise.

The first NBA game that I covered as a credentialed media member was Indiana's 101-77 home win versus Chicago on March 22, 2004. Scottie Pippen did not play due to injury, but I interviewed him after the game. I covered the first two games of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals at Indiana. Game two is best remembered for Tayshaun Prince's chase down block versus Reggie Miller, a key play in Detroit's 72-67 win that prevented the Pistons from falling behind 0-2. The Pistons won that series in six games before beating the Lakers in five games to capture the NBA title. 

Over the next several years, I covered many Pacers games as a credentialed media member. I don't recall having any in depth conversations with Benner, but I remember that when I needed something or had a question he or one of his staff members was always willing and able to help. During that period, I interviewed many Pacer legends, including Bobby "Slick" Leonard, Mel Daniels, George McGinnis, and Darnell Hillman. I also interviewed prominent visiting players, including Kobe Bryant (on multiple occasions) and Steve Nash.

Gregg Doyel of the Indy Star knew Benner much better than I did, and Doyel's tribute to Benner is a must read. Here is an excerpt:

David Benner wouldn't say he was dying. Not his style. And this was a man of style--and substance. He worked for the IndyStar from 1979-1994, worked his way up from copy boy to the biggest beats in sports before shifting gears and working for the Pacers in media relations. An unusual career switch, something only the strongest of souls could do, but that was Benner. One of the strongest souls around.

Benner left us Wednesday morning at age 67, dying of the cancer that had been coming for him for a decade, nibbling around the edges, trying to get close but running into the same wall most of us ran into, eventually: Benner would decide how close you'd get. You, me, cancer...none of us chose. Benner chose.

The retirements and deaths of so many people who I met while covering the NBA are a grim reminder of the relentless passing of time. Rest in peace, David Benner.

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:54 AM



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