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The Indiana Pacers were founded in 1967 as a member of the American Basketball Association (ABA), and quickly established themselves as one of the most dominant teams in the league. Led by Hall of Famer Mel Daniels, the Pacers made the playoffs nine times in the ABA, winning it all three times.
The ABA and NBA merged in 1976, and so the Pacers moved to the NBA. Despite playing so well in the ABA, the team struggled in the NBA for a long time. It took 17 years for the Pacers to win their first postseason series in the NBA. Poor financial, roster and draft pick management left the Pacers struggling. Did you know that the Pacers traded their 1984 draft pick away in 1983? The Chicago Bulls used the pick to take Michael Jordan, and the rest is history.
While that was a big miss for the franchise, the Pacers did hit the jackpot by picking Reggie Miller with the 11th pick in the 1987 draft. He spent his entire career with the Pacers and is widely accepted as the franchise’s greatest player. Miller made the All-Star team five times and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2012.
The Pacers didn’t just stop after drafting Miller and added Rik Smits in the 1988 draft. The giant Dutchman was a perfect partner for Miller. Even with these two talented players, the Pacers only won its first postseason game with Miller after hiring Larry Brown in 1993.
From 1993-2000, one of the greatest NBA rivalries emerged between the Pacers and the New York Knicks. Specifically, a feud between Miller and Knicks superfan and film director Spike Lee. Miller was affectionately called the “Knicks Killer” after turning in countless excellent performances against the team.
Most famously, Miller orchestrated an unbelievable comeback in the playoffs by scoring eight points in 8.9 seconds when his team was down six points with 18 seconds to play. During this time, the Pacers made it to their only NBA Finals game, losing 4-2 to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Pacers made it to the conference finals in 2004, losing to eventual champions, the Detroit Pistons. However, this set the scene for one of the most infamous NBA brawls when the teams met again in November 2004. The “Malice at the Palace” saw a full-scale fight between both teams, with fans eventually getting involved. Pacers small forward Ron Artest (now known as Metta Sandiford-Artest) was banned for 86 games and lost $5 million from his salary because of the fight.
Times have been tough for the Pacers recently, with the only bright spot in 2010 when the team drafted Paul George. He led the Pacers to the conference finals in 2013 and 2014 but lost to a Miami Heat team boasting a prime LeBron James. After seven seasons, George left for the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017, and the Pacers haven’t won a postseason series since.