Bobblehead selections announced — one of many ways Pacers celebrating 50th season

Earlier this week, the Pacers announced who will be featured on the seven bobbleheads distributed at select games to fans this upcoming season — one on opening night and for each Decade Game.

The franchise will celebrate its 50th season all year long. Game jerseys included a commemorative patch, ads and promotional items feature a special logo, and these bobbleheads will be sought-after items.

To get it all started, 15,000 bobbleheads of Bobby ‘Slick’ Leonard, the former Pacers head coach who is now in his 32nd season as the radio analyst on the Pacers Radio Network, will be given out to fans at opening night: Oct. 26 against the Dallas Mavericks.

“There can be no more fitting way to lead off our 50th season than to recognize the man who embodies all the decades of the Pacers, Bobby Leonard,” Pacers Senior VP & Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Todd Taylor said in the announcement. “Indeed, without Slick and his wife, Nancy, we might not be here today.”

And he’s exactly right.

I’ve said it for several years now: A statue of Slick and Nancy should be outside of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (More specifically, I believe a bench with those two sitting on it would be fitting because they have never met a stranger.)

Then, the following bobbleheads will be handed out on select Decade Games:

  • 1960s: Nov. 12 vs Boston: Hall of Fame forward Roger Brown
  • 1970s: Dec. 10 vs Portland: Hall of Fame center Mel Daniels and former ABA most valuable player George McGinnis
  • 1980s: Jan. 7 vs New York: All-Star forward Chuck “The Rifleman” Person
  • 1990s: Feb. 11 vs Milwaukee: Hall of Fame guard Reggie Miller
  • 2000s: March 12 vs Miami: All-Star forward Danny Granger
  • 2010s: April 4 vs Toronto: All-Star and Olympic Gold Medalist Paul George

(Note: The Pacers Gift Shop also plans to sell each of these bobbleheads.)

Slick Leonard's bobblehead.

Slick Leonard’s bobblehead. [Provided by Pacers]

All of those choices make sense. They were big-time contributors on their teams. Still, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been plenty of votes for other players.

Shortly after the news came out, I received a lot of draw back on social media regarding the 2000s decade. Most, including myself, feel Jermaine O’Neal would have been the more appropriate selection.

O’Neal (2000-08): Six-time NBA All-Star (2002-07), 2002 Most Improved Player, 2004 All-NBA Second Team, Third in voting for NBA MVP for the 2003-04 season.

Best statistical season – 2003-04: 20.1 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, 2.1 assists per game.

Granger (2005-2014): 2009 Most Improved Player, NBA All-Star (2009), and he carried the team during a difficult time.

Best statistical season – 2008-09: 25.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists per game.

This discussion is exactly the point. The organization wants those topics, the team, and basketball then and now to be debated. It can be fun.

JO even had fun with it.

(Side note: I did not send it to him. He was tagged in a tweet sent my someone else. He then communicated with me privately, and you will soon be hearing from him.)

“He is not forgotten,” one team executive made clear to me.

And recognition isn’t limited to bobbleheads. Not even close.

Fans can expect signage, decor, music, entertainment, and more to be changed to best reflect that specific decade. Pacers players will wear special shooting shirts for each decade, and the Pacemates will dress in special garb from those various eras.

Moreover, the organization will soon have an interactive database where fans can vote for the best players from each decade. Building off that, they plan to name the Top 50 Players in Pacers History.

I plan to have Senior VP Todd Taylor join the Vigilant Sports Pacers Podcast for his annual appearance ahead of Game 1 on Oct. 26.

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