Jeff Foster, a True Indiana Pacer Great, Retires

The second-longest-tenured Indiana Pacer of all time has retired from the only team he has ever known. Yes, in a sad development, Jeff Foster has called it quits at the age of 35 midway through his 13th season. He has suffered from chronic back trouble for years now, and after undergoing two different corrective procedures this year, apparently with limited success, he has decided that his body will no longer allow him to play the relentless style of basketball Pacers fans have had the pleasure to watch for the past 13 seasons.

“It’s with deep regret that I have to conclude my basketball career,” said Foster. “I’ve given my all to the Pacers and the community the last 13 years. I had hoped to be able to finish the season, but unfortunately my back problems prevented that from occurring. I want to thank the Simon family and the Pacers’ organization for 13 memorable years.”

According to the Pacers, Jeff ranks in the top 10 among all players to have ever suited up for the NBA incarnation of the blue and gold in 11 different statistical categories. With 764 games played as a Pacer, I believe he is third in NBA franchise history, behind only Rik Smits (867), and some guy named Reggie (1,389). Perhaps most special of all, the three of these guys combined to play precisely 0 games for another NBA franchise. In that respect, and many others, Jeff Foster is a true Pacers legend. (UPDATE: Those games played figures were merely regular season totals. Throw in playoffs, and it is 817 for Jeff, 971 for Rik, and 1,533 for Reggie).

This announcement really is a shame since Jeff had the game to keep playing for several more seasons. He just doesn’t have the body for it anymore. Earlier this season in Boston, Foster jokingly told me that he knew he would never pass Reggie Miller on the all-time games played list for the Pacers. “[Tonight], I officially became the second-longest-tenured Pacer behind Reggie,” said Foster on January 6 after the first game he played this season. “And I am not catching him. I’ve got five more years to go [to catch up] — that’s not happening.”

At the time, it was a funny comment from a guy who is one of the classiest men, and best financial planners, in the league. Now? In hindsight? It takes on a different meaning. He seemed very sure that he was on the road to recovery and eager to play alongside a group of guys who were help taking this franchise, finally, for the first time in more than a half-decade, against what must have seemed like all odds, back in the right direction. He knew he could still compete and was even joking about being upset that Tyler Hansbrough stole some of his rebounds that night.

In doing so, Tyler did what few NBA players ever could.

Foster, who played in 764 games  had a truly uncanny ability to track down boards. He truly was among the best who have ever lived, and it is with no nostalgia or any effort to praise a man who is now leaving the league that I say this.

Jeff never played a ton of minutes so he doesn’t rate that high on the career leaders for rebounds per game or total rebounds (where he is 197th all time). But according to Basketball-Reference.com, he is 8th in modern NBA history in terms of rebound rate (which measures the percentage of available boards a player gathers while on the court, I believe dating back to 1972). By collecting 18.95% of the missed shots that occurred while he was in the game over 13 seasons — nearly one out of every five misses — he trails only Dennis Rodman (23.44%), Dwight Howard (20.99%), Swen Nater (20.85%), Moses Malone (19.83%), Larry Smith (19.3%), Marcus Camby (19.13%) and Dikembe Mutombo (19.1%).

On the offensive end, he was even more impressive. Again, Jeff never played a ton of minutes so he “only” ranks 84th since records began being kept. But he is 5th since then in offensive rebound rate. He trails only Jayson Williams, Rodman, Moses and Larry Smith aka Mr. Mean.

Pretty amazing company.

Thanks for all the ball-chasing memories, Jeff. It will be a pleasure to see your number retired.

Notice the blue and yellow square at the bottom. One number. One franchise. Infinity plus one boards.

Tags: 90s Pacers Jeff Foster Reggie Miller Rik Smits

  • dwain

    what a sad story. gotta second that retire his # posit. Jeff i am not really sure u understand how much Pacer fans are going to miss u, u carried our torch when Reggie left… and i know we will carry one for u a long time to come. hope u manage to get yer back in good shape soon, remember every time it hurts, some Pacer fan is remembering your great work ethic and the fantastic class u added to this franchise..and just plain thanking u for every day u were a Pacer on the court.

  • http://twitter.com/excitedstate excitedstate

    Do you really think they’ll retire his number? I’d love to see it for his tenacity, loyalty to the franchise and community, and status as a fan favorite who truly earned that title. But the Pacers have only retired numbers of four true greats. The fact that Smits’ #45 isn’t in the rafters makes me wonder whether #10 will be up there either.

  • dwain

    srry got to add…when ever i remember u, it won’t be all the fantastic rebounding, passing, fighting for the ball and just great play…it will be that look on yer face when u sank a 3

    be well man know that u are loved even if we didn’t say it enough when u were here

  • Nathaniel

    Thanks Jeff

  • Drew d

    Love Jeff, but i dont understand why bird went with Foster over mcdaniels. Foster hasnt been healthy for years. Poor move by the pacers.

  • Drew d

    And foster will not have his number retired. That would be a complete joke. He wasnt even an all star.

  • Travis

    McDaniels? The X Man making a comeback?

    No one got picked over the other. The team had plenty of capspace. Bird just didn’t want McBob.

  • Jmac

    Jeff Foster,
    You will be missed.

    You had an uncanny ability to rebound the ball, and you represented loyalty, maturity, and professionalism to a team that desperately needed all of the above. You will be missed by this fan, and many others who enjoyed seeing you play. More than one smile has been cracked, on occasion, when the box score shows Foster having an amazing amount of rebounds while only playing a third of the game. More rebounds per game than points per game in a career. Astonishing.

    You were a brilliant player, and a smart man. You’ll do well in whatever you do next.

    God bless you, Jeff,

    The Pacers’ Fans

  • JRC

    Man, that sucks. He still looked good when he was able to get out there this season. At least we’re pretty assured of him not being in the news declaring bankruptcy in a few years.

  • PG24ShootMore

    Your McDaniels comment makes anything you say from now on irrelevant. I’m sorry.

    But Jeff, you’ve stuck with us through thick and thin. You’ve won us games and won our hearts, and while you’ll never be thought of as a NBA great you will always be remembered as an Indiana Pacers great. Your dedication, hard work, leadership, and (alleged) pottymouth will be missed by Indiana. For real man, I doubt you’ll ever read this, but we will miss you and remember you forever. Even if the Pacers don’t retire #10 it will always be your number in our hearts and minds. God bless you Jeff, Indiana loves you.

  • Mike

    I’ll never forget when he came into the league with his hair perfectly combed over like he spent 15 minutes in front of the mirror before every game and that giant blue mouth guard. He looked like such a goob, I thought he’d never last. Oops.

  • NZ Buc

    Really sad to hear he’s forced to retire – loved watching him play (and using him in pat iterations of NBA 2k), and the effect he has had on the second unit these past two seasons especially. If there is silver linings – I guess it’s that he’s retired from 1 franchise (only), and that in the scheme of things he got a chance to retire when he needed to – not being (politely) told your services are. I longer required.

  • Tom

    man this news bummed me out. He is the last link we have to the former days of packed pacers arenas, competitive teams, and a city on the edge of its seat.

    I’ve been waiting eagerly to see foster come back later this year, was really looking forward to it. shame we won’t get to see that happen. wish him all the best, and thank him for all

  • Rocky

    Jeff was the perfect example of a professional. If everyone in the league played with his energy and passion every night, the NBA could rival the NFL in popularity. He certainly was a bright spot on the team when things were at their worst in our painful rebuilding process. I wish him the best in whatever the future holds, and I’d certainly like to see him on the sideline as an assistant coach if he would like to go that route.

    Thanks for all the wonderful memories. It was an wonderful to see the Pacer’s finally make it back to the playoffs last year and it was an honor to hear the Bull’s fans boo, but respect the tenacity in which you played.

  • Mark

    It is too bad for Jeff to not be able to complete this season. Having the same type of back problems that Jeff has I fully understand what he has gone through the past couple years. He is a truly classy guy and a really good example for all current and future Pacers to follow. That “who me?” look on his face every time a foul is called on him is priceless!!! I hope to see him at games even if he is not playing.

    On the bright side, that will open up a roster spot for next year. And the Pacers should have cap room to get somebody decent. I know it is past the trade deadline this year, but in a circumstance like this with someone retiring, could the Pacers possibly pick someone up this year?

  • Chris D.

    Best wishes for a successful retirement!

  • Zach Winningham

    The last remnant of the “Reggie years.” consummate hard worker and pro. Love the face when he hit the 3-pointer this year.

    I lived in San Antonio for a few years, and after a Pacers/Spurs game I rode w Jeff and his family in an elevator. He saw my Pacers jersey and said thanks for coming out to support the team. Loved him already but fell in love with just a simple word of thanks that he didn’t have to say. I’ll miss seeing you on the floor or in your suits.

    Thank you!

  • damn

    I LOVE YOU FOSTY I WILL MISS YOU SO MUCH

  • MCR

    Tom said “He is the last link we have to the former days of packed pacers arenas…” In addition to always running down those boards, I will also remember the framed picture that, at one time, hung in the bowels of the Fieldhouse of a young Jeff Foster dunking home the final basket any NBA player ever made in grand old Market Square Arena. It is indeed a sad day…a last link truly is leaving the franchise. Thanks for the heart and the effort you gave the Pacers, Jeff. Wish we had a few more years.

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