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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

New book tells insider stories about Pacers, ABA

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“We Changed the Game,” a new book that tells an insiders’, fly-on-the-wall account from the wild days of the Indiana Pacers’ American Basketball Association era, will reveal behind-the-scenes stories never before shared publicly.

Published by Hilton Publishing, “We Changed the Game” spotlights the relationship between individual ABA Pacers players and their coach “Slick” Leonard, locker room and on-the-road antics, and the business roller coaster the ABA Pacers rode in struggling to keep the franchise and the league alive.

“It’s like a tale of the Wild West in tennis shoes,” said Robin Miller, longtime sports reporter and co-author of the book with legendary ABA Pacers player Robert “Neto” Netolicky and Indianapolis attorney and Pacers founder Richard Tinkham. “This is a collection of stories from those who lived the Pacers’ journey from the deepest insider levels.” 

Netolicky, who shares a number of stories in the book about his former ABA Pacers iconic coach Leonard, explained the book is not just another statistical report or a game-play rehash.

“It’s the real story of a team, a coach and a handful of dreamers, who brought a new league and a new team to Indianapolis — and how they not only changed the culture and future of a city, but the game of basketball forever,” said Netolicky.

Tinkham is one of those “handful of dreamers” still alive to tell the real stories of the team, the league and the ABA-NBA merger. In the book, Tinkham recounts the never-before-revealed struggles going on behind the scenes within the league and the Pacers franchise, and how the infamous 1969 playoff game against the Kentucky Colonels changed everything.

“If we hadn’t won that seventh game and advanced, there was no additional playoff revenue,” Tinkham said. “There was no more money and, even worse, there was no plan.”

Mayor William Hudnut, who provided a foreword for the book prior to his passing in 2016, said that “to have the franchise fold would have sent out the message that Indianapolis could not be considered a major-league city, and that in turn would hinder our ability to garner business and jobs from elsewhere.”

The book releases in late February, just a few weeks before the ABA 50-year reunion celebration. Ten percent of the book proceeds will fund Dropping Dimes, an Indiana nonprofit that assists ABA players and their families facing financial or medical difficulties.

“These proceeds are crucial to so many of my former teammates and league players, because after the NBA-ABA merger … former ABA players who were not part of the merger were generally left without a pension,” said Netolicky, who serves on the advisory board of Dropping Dimes.


For a sneak peek or to pre-order a copy, visit wechangedthegame.com.

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