Dropping Dimes Foundation tips-off fundraising efforts to aid former ABA players

ABA Pacers took the stage at the JCC for a Dropping Dimes Fundraising event.

ABA Pacers took the stage at the JCC for a Dropping Dimes Fundraising event.

On a Sunday evening in mid-July, seven former ABA Pacers were together in one room — for one cause they care dearly about.

If you knew these guys, you would know coming together is nothing out of the ordinary for them. They’ll often meet up at one of their houses and hang out. Some attend Pacers games regularly. The men (and their families) have remained close through the decades as the American Basketball Association merged with the National Basketball Association we know today back in 1976.

On this night, at the Jewish Community Center on the north side of Indianapolis, these longtime friends and those close to the cause joined together for the tip-off event and fundraiser for the recently founded Dropping Dimes Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that assists former ABA players, personnel and their families who have encourtered unfortunate circumstances. It’s a mission to cover those across the country, not just former Pacers.

Many of those ABA players are largely forgotten, and certainly weren’t compensated anything close to the NBA guys of today. In fact, it was common for the players to have second jobs.

The Dropping Dimes Foundation — a thoughtful name because they are just that, assisting others or in basketball lingo, dropping dimes — was founded by Scott Tarter (President) and Dr. John Abrams (Chairman of the Board), who is the Pacers’ longtime ophthalmologist.

There are 13 on the advisory board, including Hall of Famers Slick Leonard (and his wife, Nancy) and Mel Daniels, plus George McGinnis, Bob Netolicky, George Gervin, former Pacers trainer David Craig, and NBC Sports broadcasting icon Bob Costas, among others.

First gathered in a side VIP room on this Sunday night, drinks and stories were shared. This side room was full of people who believed in the caused, supported these men and their passion for helping others.

After over an hour of food, cocktails, and some autographs for those contributing, everyone moved into the Laikin Auditorium to hear the ABA Pacers in attendance reflect on their days in the league. There were seven in all: Billy Keller, Darnell Hillman, Bob Netolicky, Hall of Famer Mel Daniels, George McGinnis, Hall of Famer Slick Leonard, and David Craig.

The highlight of the night, beyond raising money for this foundation which has full 501(c)(3) status, was showing off the late Roger Brown’s Hall of Fame jacket as he was part of the 2013 Naismith Hall of Fame class.

(A small percentage of those in the game have been elected to the Hall of Fame — 325 in all. Just over half, 168, are players.)

Gayle Brown-Mayes, Roger’s daughter, received the jacket in his honor two years ago and gave it to her half brother, Roger Jr. He then passed to his sister Stacey Hicks, who decided to sell old items, including the jacket, to an auction house.

“I found out it was going to be on auction and we decided that we needed to get it back for the family,” Abrams said. “It’s not right for it to sit in some collector’s closet in Kentucky or something.”

The Leonard Family, Brown’s former teammates, Dropping Dime board members, and Pacers Sports & Entertainment all chipped in a total of $2,018 to get the jacket back in their hands — where it belongs.

The plan, though not finalized, is for a Roger Brown legacy case to be on display on the main concourse at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to be seen and celebrated by all.

2015-07-19 Dropping Dimes - HOF jacket with Roger's daughter

The group proudly poses for a photo with Brown’s HOF jacket.

After the group spoke on stage for nearly an hour, board members explained more about the foundation, its mission, and how thankful they were to get the ball rolling. They also took a group photo with the jacket, along with Gayle and her son, Hudson, who flew in all the way from Los Angeles for this night.

There were plenty of jokes shared, like this one about the jacket…

“Ever since we were able to get ahold of the jacket to bring it back home, Slick and Mel have been all over us privately about security.

Mel was adamant about it, “Cause that’s the closest Neto [Bob Netolicky] is going to get to a Hall of Fame jacket.”

(The room erupted in laughter.)

That was a prime example of the lighthearted environment this was — with their personalities on fully display.

Now the goal is to go across the country to find former ABA folks who have economic needs. It can be more than just medical expenses, such a a motorized wheelchair or even clothes. There’s multiple individuals who are in need of the basics, like shoes and clothes — and it’s not easy to obtain a suit, for example, for a man 6-foot-8.

If you wish to contribute by donating, you can do so through the Dropping Dimes website here.

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