The Indiana Pacers were once a standout team in the former American Basketball Association. The team won an impressive 3 championship titles during its time with the league before transitioning over to the NBA with the ABA-NBA merger. They are one of just 2 teams that never changed its name or relocated during its time in the ABA. It’s time to talk about the extensive history of the team forever-known as the Indiana Pacers.
The Beginning Years
Way back in 1967, a group of wealthy investors in Indiana decided it was time to buy a franchise with the American Basketball Association (ABA) to bring professional basketball to Indiana. The team name, the Pacers, had two inspirations: The history of horse racing in Indiana and the well-known pace car from the Indy 500 race. Despite disagreements about the team’s official location, “Indiana” was eventually added to the team’s name.
The first few years as a team in the ABA was filled with success, advancing to the ABA Finals an astounding 5 times and clinching the title during the 1970, 1972, and 1973 seasons. These achievements were in part due to head coach Bob Leonard as well as professional basketball veterans like Mel Daniels and George McGinnis. Yet, the Pacers’ unrivaled accomplishments in the ABA were eventually moot after the ABA-NBA merger in 1976.
The most successful team in the ABA suddenly had issues with their on-court product and finances. That’s because it cost the franchise over $3 million to join the NBA and lacked ticket sales necessary to remain financially afloat. To further demonstrate the bad luck, the team consistently ended up on the short-end of deals, trading away players that turned out to be standouts and drafting busts.
The early 1980s were loaded with struggle for the once-thriving Indiana Pacer. They were unable to surpass 26 victories in a single season for several years straight. The down-on-their-luck Pacers were able to turn their misery around, drafting Reggie Miller from UCLA in 1987 and Detlef Schrempf in 1989. Schrempf became one of the most important players in the early 1990s, even advancing to the All-Star game.
The 1990s meant drafting players like Reggie Miller and recruiting NBA standout Larry Bird as the team’s head coach. Bird was able to lead the team to an unprecedented 58-24 record, though his position as head coach didn’t last long. The coaching role was eventually handed over to the current Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas during the early 2000s. The Pacers eventually made it to the NBA Finals during the 2000 season, the first time since 1975.
The Indiana Pacers have had a multitude of different logos since 1968
1976 - 1981
The jersey used in 1976 emphasized the team color of blue. “INDIANA” was added in yellow letters with white borders, the numbers were the opposite, and the same colors were used to border the entire jersey.
1981 - 1984
The only changes to the jersey used between the 1981 and 1984 seasons were smaller lettering and consistency among the coloring for the letters and numbers.
1985 - 1990
From 1985 to 1990, the Pacers sported a brand new jersey never seen before. This jersey was mostly dark blue with a yellow stripe around the chest portion. The yellow stripe included the name “Pacers” in all capital blue letters. The player’s number was white with yellow borders.
1990 - 1997
The jersey worn between 1990 and 1997 was mostly black with diagonal lines separating yellow and white coloring. The name “Indiana” was written in yellow font with white borders.
1997 - 2005
The 1997 jersey offered a brand new design for the Pacers. This jersey was mostly yellow with vertical black pinstripes throughout. “Indiana” was written in black lettering with a white outline.
2005 - 2018
This jersey was mostly black with yellow accents, including “Indiana” in all-capital white lettering with yellow borders.
The 2017 jersey for the Pacers was the most modern yet. This jersey was mostly yellow and had “Indiana Pacers” resembling the shape of a circle around the player number. Thick horizontal black stripes were added to the side of the jersey.
2018 - Today
The 2018 Pacers jersey is the most recent. This jersey is mostly white, with “Pacers” in yellow letters at a slight angle. The player number was on one side below the team name, also at an angle. The jersey had blue borders and a large diagonal blue stripe white narrow yellow pinstripes inside.