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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Pacers and Indiana basketball legend George McGinnis dead at 73

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Indiana Pacers great George McGinnis, the 1969 Indiana Mr. Basketball who went on to a professional career that culminated in his enshrinement in the Naismith Hall of Fame, passed away early Thursday morning. He was 73.

“This morning, Indianapolis lost a hometown hero. From the gyms of IPS George Washington High School and Indiana University, to playing for our very own Indiana Pacers, Hall of Famer George McGinnis was an American icon and basketball legend,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said. “On behalf of the City of Indianapolis, I would like to express our gratitude for George’s service as an ambassador for our city and the Hoosier state. My deepest condolences to his family, friends, and fans. May the legacy of George McGinnis forever live on.”

McGinnis succumbed to complications from a cardiac arrest suffered last week at his home. He was taken to Community North Hospital where family, friends, and former teammates maintained a vigil of support until his passing.

McGinnis starred on an unbeaten Indianapolis Washington High School team that won the 1969 state championship, led the Big Ten in scoring and rebounding as a sophomore at Indiana University, then helped guide the Pacers to two of their three American Basketball Association (ABA) championships. He earned the ABA’s co-most valuable player (with Julius Erving) in the 1974-75 season. McGinnis then moved on to the Philadelphia 76ers in the National Basketball Association (NBA), where he was twice named an All-Star. He later played for the Denver Nuggets before returning to the Indiana Pacers, closing his 11-year professional basketball career in 1982.

He is one of four Pacers (Roger Brown, Mel Daniels and Reggie Miller being the others) to have his Pacers jersey – No. 30 – retired. He was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2017.

At 6’8, 235 pounds, McGinnis defined the position of “power” forward but was also a tremendous rebounder, floor leader, and teammate. In the 1975 ABA playoffs, for example, he averaged 32.3 points, 15.9 rebounds, and 8.2 assists.

As 1969 Mr. Basketball, he was best known for his 53-point, 30-point rebound performance in the Indiana’s All-Star victory over Kentucky in Louisville’s Freedom Hall.

Although plagued by severe back issues in later life, McGinnis was affable, approachable, and immensely loyal to his friends, former teammates and former Pacers coach Bobby “Slick” Leonard.  He was also a successful businessman, forming and running GM Supply, a wholesale industrial supply firm.

The son of Willie and Burnie McGinnis, George married his high school sweetheart, Lynda, who passed in 2019. He is survived by his sister, Bonnie.

Statement from the Simon Family and Pacers Sports & Entertainment:

“From his all-state high school days to his time as an IU All-American and, of course, to his legendary ABA championship runs with the Pacers, George McGinnis shaped so many of the fondest basketball memories for generations of Hoosiers. He was the very definition of an Indiana basketball legend, a champion, and Hall of Fame athlete. But he was more than that. George was family. A passionate advocate for his fellow ABA players and a present, smiling face around the franchise, George has been as synonymous with our Pacers franchise as anyone. He will be greatly missed, and all of us at Pacers Sports & Entertainment will keep George and his family in our prayers.” 

The burial will be private, but a celebration of life will take place in Gainbridge Fieldhouse after the first of the year. Details to be announced.

For more news courtesy of the Indianapolis Recorder, click here.

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