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Indiana Historical Society unveils new basketball origins exhibit

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The Indiana Historical Society (IHS) unveils its newest exhibit “Going Pro: Basketball Origins in Indiana” Sept. 23. With the help of Pacers Sports & Entertainment (PS&E), the exhibit investigates Indiana’s love of basketball, its heritage and its impact on professional leagues.

During the 1910s, Em-Roes, a sporting goods business in Indianapolis, established a basketball team, which was one of the first professional teams in the region. Some of the players from this team achieved great success in the future, such as Ward “Piggy” Lambert, who became a coach at Purdue University and acted as a commissioner for the National Basketball League – which later merged to become NBA – as well as Albert Feeney, who won a closely contested race and became the mayor of Indianapolis in 1948.

Back in the days of World War II, a pro-basketball team was born out of Fort Wayne, courtesy of manufacturer Fred Zollner. Despite other teams shutting down and suspending operations, Zollner’s squad endured and even thrived, eventually becoming one of the best in the nation and joining the NBA. To this day, the team continues to play under the name Detroit Pistons.

In 1967, the Indiana Pacers were created as one of the founding teams of the American Basketball Association (ABA). The team touted incredible players, including Mel Daniels, Roger Brown and George McGinnis.

However, financial troubles caused the ABA to merge with the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1976, leaving the Pacers with the option to join the new league for a hefty $3.2 million entry fee. Struggling to afford the fees, Pacers then-Assistant General Manager Nancy Leonard proposed a telethon to raise the funds. The telethon was a success, securing the team’s future and paving the way for the Pacers to become a beloved Indiana institution.

The IHS “Going Pro: Basketball Origins in Indiana” exhibit will explore these many facets of basketball and the state’s undying love of the game. For more information, visit www.indianahistory.org.

Contact multi-media staff writer Noral Parham III at 317-762-7846 or via email at noralp@indyrecorder.com. Follow him on Twitter @NoralParham. For more sports coverage, click here.

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