Fans thank Oladipo as he rides in 500 Festival Parade

Victor Oladipo, Pacers, Indianapolis, 500 Festival Parade

Pacers fans began lining the steps to the Central Library more than 45 minutes before Victor Oladipo’s arrival. There were Oladipo chants many times when the door to the library was opened, only for another celebrity to walk the red carpet.

They were dressed in jerseys, t-shirts, and Pacers gear. They wanted to say “thank you” to Oladipo for his performance this season in helping the franchise remain in the playoffs. They lost in seven games in Cleveland, but they put up a great fight.

At 11:49 am, a police escort led three Miller Transportation tour busses, plus several more SUVs, to St. Clair St in downtown Indianapolis. Indy 500 drivers got off the busses with their families and walked the red carpet, and into the library one-by-one.

Then, at 11:56 am, Joe Smith, the Pacers’ Director of Executive Protection, opened the passenger side rear door and out came Oladipo. He smiled, waved to the dozens of fans, and then was handed a jersey from Player Development Coordinator Michael Hornback.

Appropriately, Oladipo would wear his City Edition Pacers jersey as he rode through downtown Indianapolis on the back of a Chevrolet Corvette. And like nearly every other major accomplishment in his life, his twin Victoria was right there with him.

Victor Oladipo, Pacers, Boomer, Indianapolis, 500 Festival Parade

Oladipo and Boomer pose for a photo before riding in the 500 Festival Parade.

By 12:11 pm, his parade driver got the command to pull onto Pennsylvania Street. In the back of the car with Oladipo for most of the parade was a personality from ESPN. They are tagging along with Victor all weekend long for a feature that will air on SportsCenter next week.

More than the parade, Oladipo is a featured guest of the speedway as he was selected to drive the 755-hp Chevy Pace Car to lead the field to the start/finish line on Sunday. He missed his originally scheduled charter flight on Friday, so he didn’t get to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway until late Friday for his first bit of training.

That training continued on Saturday at the track. But first, he took a ride in a two-seater, which tops out around 180 mph.

Former IndyCar driver Sarah Fisher is helping Oladipo, and Chevy flew in expert driver trainer Ron Fellows from Las Vegas to prepare Oladipo to drive the powerful ZR1 ride.

PODCAST: IMS President Doug Boles on the selection of Oladipo and his role at the race

Oladipo, who turned 26 this month, heard plenty of praise throughout the parade route. Several times he stood up to do his signature “This is my city” celebration. Like on Washington Street, where he spotted a young fan in a gold Oladipo jersey. The kid stood up on the back row of the bleachers and pointed both pointer fingers at the ground, imitating Oladipo. Vic saw it, and did the same with a proud smile on his face.

For a guy who was trade twice in two years, this weekend is the exclamation point to what has been a whirlwind season for the Indiana University grad. The love always came from IU fans when he returned to Indy. He’s easily the most popular player to wear the Cream and Crimson in the last several decades.

Now it’s not just IU fans, but Purdue, Butler, Ball State, etc. fans. They’re Oladipo fans and appreciate not only his play on the court, but also his joy for life and this city.

So never mind that it was 83 degrees with 53 percent humidity, Oladipo had a good time riding through what has now been dubbed “His City.”

Just after noon ET on Sunday, Oladipo will steer the pace car into the pits and the 33-car field will get the 102nd Running of The Greatest Spectacle Racing underway.

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