The Indiana Pacers don’t have the historical dominance of some other franchises around the NBA. They don’t have the titles of the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, the recent dominance of the Golden State Warriors, or the Cinderella run of the Dallas Mavericks.
However, despite having so many stars play for the team, the Pacers have only ever retired five numbers – 30 (George McGinnis), 31 (Miller), 34 (Mel Daniels), 35 (Roger Brown), 529 (coach Bobby Leonard).
This has been a point of contention, especially among players who helped the Pacers to success in the early 2000s. Former All-Star Jermaine O’Neal recently took to Instagram to discuss the issue after the team revealed that Buddy Hield would be switching his number from 24 to seven, the digit donned by O’Neal during his time in Indiana. (H/t Jack Murray of Bleacher Report)
"“I love Buddy and the work that he puts in. My statement has nothing to do with him,” Jermaine commented on the post. “It is disappointing to watch teams every year recognize and celebrate the players who have been the franchise’s very best players on and off the court but yet Pacers don’t. It’s been confusing and disappointing to say the least!”"
O’Neal spent eight seasons with the Pacers, making six-straight All-Star teams and earning All-NBA honors three different times. He is one of the top-10 players in Pacers history, according to total win shares, clocking in at 10th.
Over the course of his eight seasons in Indiana, O’Neal averaged 18.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.8 blocks per game while shooting 45.8% from the field.
The big man ranks eighth in total minutes played (17,997) in Pacers history, fifth in points (9,580), sixth in rebounds (4,933), and first in blocks (1,245).
Unfortunately, O’Neal’s career will forever be linked to the Malice at the Palace, an event for which O’Neal, along with three of his teammates, was suspended indefinitely by the NBA.
It seems likely that the Pacers are hesitant to honor his time with the team for that reason, but putting that incident aside, there’s no reason O’Neal shouldn’t be one of the top options to get his number retired.
As of now, O’Neal will have to wait and see how the Pacers decide to play things, but with Hield switching his number to seven, his chances of having his number retired went down significantly.