Tonight, before Indiana’s win over Miami, there was a much more somber event at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Jeff Foster addressed the media for the final time as a Pacer player. Unfortunately, it was to officially end his career and answer questions about what it meant to him to play 13 years for the same franchise, just like his boss Larry Bird did.
This wasn’t actually news. Last week came the sudden, but not altogether shocking, announcement that Foster’s playing days are over after years of back trouble finally made professional basketball something that could jeopardize his long-term livelihood.
The other night in Washington, I asked Danny Granger how he felt when he first heard the news. “I was sad,” said Granger. “He was probably the best teammate I’ve had in my whole career here. Just that I won’t see him any more in the locker room is kind of heart-breaking.”
Whenever anyone is forced to retire early due to injury, it is indeed sad. But for Foster, you can add another unfortunate reason: the timing. After so many seasons struggling through off-court turmoil and on-court mediocrity, Indiana has just seemingly started to right the ship. Jeff was supposed to be here to enjoy that road back towards the top. But instead, he enters retirement.
“He went through the bad parts,” said Granger. “He got a little bit of the good parts when the Pacers were really good way back when. But for the most part, he went through a lot of bad years here, so it’s sad to see him go when we finally turned it around.”
Luckily, Jeff does have something going for him: financial stability. We hear so many tales of guys like Antoine Walker, Christian Laettner, Scottie Pippen and Allen Iverson falling on tough times after their successful playing days.
For Foster, nothing could be further away. He has invested his earnings shrewdly — even being profiled by Bloomberg BusinessWeek for his ability to manage a portfolio — and will never be mentioned as a cautionary tale to players entering the league.
“He had good career, made a lot of money and he was smart with his money,” said Granger, “so I’m sure he’ll have a great retirement.”
I’m sure he will. And after hearing him talk hoops on Fox Sports Indiana alongside Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner tonight during the second quarter of the Pacers win, Pacers fans can only hope that Foster’s post-playing career will involve some analyst work.
Well done, Jeff. Both on the color commentary and that 13 years of service to the Pacers.