ESPN’s 30 for 30 Short on the 1977 Pacers telethon to air Feb. 19

Nancy Leonard was instrumental on putting on the telethon, which saved the Pacers.

Nancy Leonard was instrumental on putting on the telethon, which saved the Pacers.

Who knows what Indianapolis is today without the Indiana Pacers. There’s no RCA Dome and no Indianapolis Colts. That means there’s no Super Bowl, no Big Ten Basketball Tournament, and no way the NCAA moves here.

Having financial trouble back in 1977 and with the future of the franchise on the line, Slick and Nancy Leonard held a “Save the Pacers” telethon on Ch. 4 in Indianapolis — and it was put together rather quickly. In a week or two, depending on who you talk to.

Michael Husain, a director in Indianapolis, pitched the idea of doing a 30 for 30 Short to ESPN. They were on board almost immediately, Husain said, and the story lasting 14 minutes and 36 seconds will make its television debut Friday, Feb. 19 on ESPN’s 6 p.m. ET edition of SportsCenter. The Pacers’ game at Oklahoma City will later air at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.

The 30 for 30 Short will be posted online before its television debut, at 10:00 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

I recorded a podcast with director Michael Husain Tuesday morning. [Click here to listen to that conversation.]

From ESPN:

“Slick, Nancy, and the Telethon”
Directed by Michael Husain

The Telethon is the story of how the Indiana Pacers avoided financial ruin by holding a “Save The Pacers” telethon in the summer of 1977.  Needing season ticket sales and investment, Pacers ownership let it be known they were strongly considering selling or moving the franchise.  Led by former head coach Bobby “Slick” Leonard, and his wife, Assistant General Manager Nancy Leonard, the telethon was a two week, concept to completion, local television event.  From local business leaders to kids collecting money door to door, the telethon prompted a basketball-crazed community to pony up and keep their franchise from leaving town.

Created in March 2008, ESPN Films produces high-quality documentary films showcasing some of the most compelling stories in sports. In October 2009, ESPN Films launched the Peabody and Emmy Award-winning 30 for 30 film series. Additional projects from ESPN Films include the decorated series 30 for 30 Shorts, Nine for IX and SEC Storiedamong others.

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