Dear Indiana Pacers,
I grew up and have lived my entire life in Indiana. I remember years in the ’90s not by my age, grade in school, or world events but by the ending of each Pacers’ season. The most memorable gift I ever received was a Reggie Miller jersey for my seventh birthday in 1994.
In the ’90s, I lived and died by the outcome of those playoff games, spent the closing seconds of defeats (and one miraculous comeback for which this site is named) crying in the backyard. Sports were important then, probably a little too much so, and those teams embodied our state: tough, fearless, selfless.
By the mid 2000s, the team was successful, but it — and I — had changed. I kept tabs, checked box scores, watched occasionally, followed the draft. The off-court issues didn’t exactly help. It just wasn’t really the same.
Then, I came back.
You brought me back.
I’m not alone in feeling this way. The past two seasons were an absolute gift: a rare, unexpected, exciting journey reminiscent to an earlier time. We twice pushed the eventual champ to its absolute maximum. An underdog team without a superstar forced its heralded, big-market opponent to adapt to a rough, unrelenting style of play.
When this season started, it was obviously our year. Each game was an absolute symposium on team-oriented ball. You epitomized what we, the most basketball crazy state in the Union, loved about the game.
Then it happened.
You became Miami.
Our team suddenly morphed into what was despised most about our rival. Officiating was met with vociferous whining. The flopping reached new heights. A deliberate, team-oriented offense was replaced by stagnate, isolation ball. Is it any wonder we’ve been on such a slide?
I’m not Zach Lowe or Mark Stein. I’m no expert analyst. I can’t tell you the issues with the rotations or the lower percentage of corner threes the team is taking. But I’ve seen enough games over the past 20 years to know when guys are playing for their team rather than a new contract or national media attention.
That’s what is happening here, and it’s a shame. We could have been the team that proved basketball can still be played the right way at the highest level.
This was our year.
And it still can be.