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George McGinnis

Source: WISH-TV / other

INDIANAPOLIS — George McGinnis, who played for the Indiana Pacers in the 70s and 80s leading them to to-ABA championships, has died.

McGinnis died Wednesday after having become hospitalized with an illness last Thursday. McGinnis was 73.

“From his all-state high school days to his time as an IU All-American and, of course, to his legendary ABA championship runs with the Pacers, George McGinnis shaped so many of the fondest basketball memories for generations of Hoosiers,” said the Simon Family and Pacers Sports & Entertainment in a statement. “He was the very definition of an Indiana basketball legend, a champion, and Hall of Fame athlete.”

McGinnis graduated from George Washington High School in Indianapolis in 1969. That same year he became the first Indiana high school basketball player to record 1,000 points in a season.

He was voted Mr. Indiana Basketball and went on to play only one season at Indiana University. He averaged over 30 points a game that lone season, still the only player in Indiana history to accomplish that feat.

After leaving school after his sophomore year, McGinnis signed with the upstart hometown ABA franchise in the Indiana Pacers after the team had won its first ABA title the season prior.

“It kept me home,” he said of the decision to leave IU and sign with the Pacers. “I had just lost my Dad two years previous. I wanted to be close to my Mom. It was just the perfect situation.”

McGinnis described his first time walking into a Pacers practice.

“I had a big reputation coming out of IU. I was Mr. Basketball in high school,” McGinnis said in an interview in 2017. “So I was a little nervous when I walked in there because I knew they had a good player in Roger Brown.”

McGinnis would win two ABA titles with the Pacers in 1972 and 1973.

After that 1973 season, the Philadelphia 76ers drafted McGinnis in order to acquire his rights should he ever choose to move to the NBA. McGinnis chose to stay with Indiana for another two seasons, earning the ABA’s co-most valuable player (with Julius Erving) in the 1974-75 season.

McGinnis eventually ended up with the Sixers in 1975 where he played for three seasons.

He was then traded to Denver in 1978 where he played another two seasons before being subsequently traded by to the Indiana Pacers, a move that also brought Donnie Walsh to the Pacers who ended up being the team’s long-time president and general manager.

McGinnis would retire from the game as a member of the Pacers who had since moved to the NBA in the ABA-NBA merger in the mid-70s.

After his playing days, McGinnis went into business for himself in Indianapolis and remained heavily involved in the game of basketball in Indiana, especially with the Pacers.

McGinnis was enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017 and is one of only four players in franchise history to have his number, 30, retired. The others are Roger Brown (35), Mel Daniels (34), and Reggie Miller (31).

McGinnis’ family will hold a private burial service for him in the next week. The Pacers say there will be a celebration of life after the first of the year.

LISTEN: Below is the full interview with George McGinnis as part of the preparation for WIBC’s “Indiana’s Team: 50 Years With The Indiana Pacers” in 2017: