Anyone that knows anything about basketball understands that few states have a richer and more illustrious basketball history than our beloved Indiana home. Just last year, Deadspin reported that no state puts out more NBA talent per capita than the Hoosier State.
But as much talent as the state has put out in general, it’s an odd truth that the Pacers actually don’t have an incredibly rich history of All-Star talent. Since 1977, the Pacers have only had 23 players elected to the All-Star team. (Of course, the Pacers were the most dominant team that the ABA saw, winning three titles and producing 22 All-Stars in less than 10 years.) Unbelievably, only the expansion Raptors (12 All-Stars) and Magic (22), and New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets (22) have produced fewer All-Stars among Eastern Conference teams.
In a lot of ways, you could say that All-Star weekend has been a disappointing one of sorts for the Pacers and their fans. Franchise all-time leading scorer and fan favorite Reggie Miller was only selected to five All-Star Games and was notoriously awful in 3-point shoot outs. One-time Rookie of the Year and 3-point specialist Chuck Person was snubbed from the game numerous times. And before this season, only four Pacer squads ever had multiple selections in the same year, despite an extended run of excellence throughout the mid-1990s and early part of the last decade.
1985-1990: The Stansbury Years
In 1985 and 1986, a slight, mediocre bench player named Terrence Stansbury nearly upset some of the greatest dunkers that have ever lived with one of the more iconic dunks in Dunk Contest history: The Statue of Liberty. In back-to-back seasons, Stansbury finished third to guys named “Air,” “The Human Highlight Film,” and “Spud.”
Indiana fans hadn’t had much to cheer for since the ABA folded. Stansbury would help hold them over for a few years.
Then, after a depressingly long 12-year hiatus of Pacers’ players making the All-Star Game, a young Reggie Miller broke drought by in 1990. Reggie only scored 4 points in 14 minutes of action, but he did reach the semi-finals of the 3-point shootout in 1989 and then narrowly lost to the immortal Craig Hodges in the finals of the 1990 contest.
Unfortunately, Reggie was never really a “stand-still set shooting” type, and this would be the closest he ever came to winning the event.
1991-1996: The Snub Years
Despite a continued run of great play, Miller failed to reach the All-Star Game again until his back-to-back selections in 1994-95 and 1995-96. The reality was that he was more than deserving every single year, but it wasn’t until Michael Jordan retired and he was able to distinguish himself against the Knicks that he firmly planted himself on the national radar.
Reggie actually started the game in 1995 and even connected on three early triples, but otherwise shot poorly as he failed to score 10 points. The next year, MJ was back and Reggie would once again be subjected to a bench role.
Reggie had even less luck in 3-point shootouts during this time, first losing in a tiebreaker (once again, to eventual champion Craig Hodges) that would have advanced him to the semi-finals in 1993 and finally, losing a heart-breaker to Glen Rice in 1995. In typical Pacers’ fashion, Reggie somehow managed to pull defeat from the jaws of victory despite connecting on more jumpers in the contest than the champion Rice.
Fortunately, Pacers’ fans were treated with Detlef Schrempf’s 1993 campaign. Schrempf deservedly made the All-Star Game in ’93 after averaging 19, 10, and 6 while shooting 48% from the field. (Randomly, he was an atrocious 3-point shooter that year, hitting a staggeringly awful 15% despite averaging 39% for his career). Unfortunately, his game wasn’t suited for the All-Star atmosphere and he only played for 13 minutes.
To be honest, the only above-average All-Star Weekend performance came when Antonio Davis submitted a yeoman-like 20 minutes in the first ever Rising Stars contest in 1994. Even Kenny Williams couldn’t advance to the semi-finals of a below-average dunk contest field in 1991.
1997-2002: The Transition Years
Things started to get a little better for the Pacers near the end of the decade. In 1998, both Reggie Miller and Rik Smits were selected to the squad, marking the first time since the ABA era that the Pacers had placed multiple All-Stars into the game. Both Reggie and Rik played solid games in 1998, scoring 14 and 10 points, respectively. Joining them was Larry Bird, who coached the East to a convincing 21-point victory against their Western foes.
Reggie also competed in his fifth and final 3-point shootout, entering the contest as the prohibitive favorite. Too bad he submitted his worst-ever performance, only connecting on 12 threes and finishing dead last in the competition.
Two years later, Dale Davis would join Reggie in the All-Star Game and he managed to pull down 8 rebounds in only 14 minutes of game action. Again, Reggie would shoot poorly, only going 1-of-7 from the field.
2001 marked the start of a new era for the Pacers as talented youngster Jonathan Bender represented the Pacers in the dunk contest. I always thought Bender got the raw end of the deal from the judges. He threw down a pretty sick Dominique-like two-handed tomahawk BEFORE dunking from the free throw line LEFT-HANDED. Most likely, he was penalized because of his length, as it’s much less impressive when 7-footers throw down the types of dunks that he connected on.
In 2002, Jermaine O’Neal and Jamaal Tinsley performed well, representing Indiana in both the actual All-Star game and the Rising Stars competition. JO played decently in 17 minutes of action, but Tinsley really showcased his court vision and leadership by dropping 10 dimes in only 18 minutes of gameplay in the uber-selfish Rising Stars game.
(In retrospect, it’s a little too easy to forget how awesome a young Jamaal Tinsley really was. Bill Simmons wrote this masterpiece after his wondrous 23-assist performance in 2003.)
2003-2008: The Jermaine Years
Jermaine O’Neal would dominate the next five years, making the All-Star team every season and turning in my favorite Pacers’ All-Star moment in 2003. JO posted a double-double in a double-overtime loss to the West, but the real story came near the end of the game. After a typically (for that season at least) awful and selfish game, Michael Jordan (who was 9-of-27 for the game) finally connected on what should have been the game-winning shot near the end of overtime. That’s when Jermaine decided to foul Kobe Bryant on a 3-point attempt, enabling the Mamba to tie the game and force a second overtime. Jordan fans held this against Jermaine for years — to my never-ending glee.
The next year, this happened.
Brad Miller and Ron Artest also mixed in All-Star appearances during this time. In all, this five-year stretch was Indiana’s most productive stretch of All-Star births in NBA franchise history.
In 2006, Danny Granger and a precocious Sarunas Jasikevicius played together in the Rising Stars competition against another player who would become a Pacers’ favorite, David West. The three combined for 27 points, and looking back, we can begin to see the transition into a new age of Pacers’ basketball. The next year, Granger would score 17 in the game for youngsters.
2009-Present: The Future is Now
In 2009, Danny Granger followed in Reggie Miller’s footsteps by competing in both the 3-point shootout and the All-Star Game itself. In true Reggie-fashion, Granger finished last in the contest before scoring only two points in the actual game.
From there, the Pacers went through another small drought before the current crop of Roy Hibbert and Paul George would pull them out of their malaise.
In 2012, Paul George absolutely lit up the Rising Stars game, scoring 23 points and doing a little bit of everything as he showed, for one of the first times, that he had star potential. In fact, had not Kyrie Irving shot a ridiculous 8-of-8 from downtown, George most likely would have received MVP honors of the contest. Hibbert only played 11 minutes in the actual game, but as one could guess, All-Star Games that feature little to no defense aren’t really his cup of tea.
George also participated in the dunk contest that season, throwing down this beauty.
Ironically, he probably should have done that dunk with the lights ON, considering the world went crazy the next time he would do the same, inverted 360 dunk.
Last season, George officially introduced himself to basketball fans everywhere, scoring 17 points in only 20 minutes in the All-Star Game while playing some important minutes at crunch time for the Eastern Conference squad. He was so impressive, we should all just agree to overlook his pitiful performance in the 3-point shootout. In retrospect, maybe Pacers’ players should just never enter that dumb contest ever again.
So what has been your favorite Pacers’ All-Star moment?
Sorry, dude, there are no polls available at the moment. But check out our awesome posts at Always Miller Time.
Tags: All-Star Weekend