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In early 1967, a group of six investors (among them attorney Richard Tinkham, sports agent Chuck Barnes and Indianapolis Star sports writer Bob Collins) pooled their resources to purchase a franchise in the proposed American Basketball Association.

According to Indianapolis attorney Richard Tinkham, the nickname "Pacers" was decided on through a collective decision of the original investors. Tinkham, one of those investors, recalled that the nickname was a combination of the state's rich history with the harness racing pacers and the pace car used for the running of the Indianapolis 500. Investor Chuck Barnes was a horse racing enthusiast in addition to being business manager of Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt and Rodger Ward. Barnes' wife, Lois, suggested the name over dinner.

Tinkham said the "Pacers" decision was an easy one, but the real debate was whether the team should be called the Indiana Pacers or the Indianapolis Pacers. Since one of the original ideas for the team was to have it playing throughout the state with its base in Indianapolis, the official team name became the Indiana Pacers.

For their first seven years, they played in the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum, now called the Pepsi Coliseum. In 1974, they moved to the plush new Market Square Arena in downtown Indianapolis, where they stayed for 25 years.

Early in the Pacers' second season, former Indiana Hoosiers standout Bob "Slick" Leonard became the team's head coach, replacing Larry Staverman. Leonard quickly turned the Pacers into a juggernaut. His teams were buoyed by the great play of superstars such as Jimmy Rayl, Mel Daniels, George McGinnis, Bob Netolicky, Rick Mount and Roger Brown. The Pacers were the most successful team in ABA history, winning three ABA Championships in four years. In all, they appeared in the ABA Finals five times in the league's nine year history.

[edit] Struggling through the early NBA years
The Pacers were one of four ABA teams that joined the NBA in the ABA-NBA merger in 1976. For the 1976–77 season the Pacers were joined in the merged league by the New York Nets, Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs of the ABA. Financially, the Pacers were by far the weakest of the four ABA refugees. Indeed, they were on far weaker financial footing than the team acknowledged to be the last ABA team left out of the expansion, the Kentucky Colonels. Although it has never been confirmed, it appeared the Pacers made the cut because Indianapolis was a far more lucrative television market than Louisville, home of the Colonels.

The Pacers' financial troubles dated back to their waning days in the ABA; they already begun selling off some of their star players in the last ABA season. They were further weakened by the price required to join the NBA. The league charged a $3.2 million dollar entry fee to each former ABA team. Because the NBA would only agree to accept four ABA teams in the ABA-NBA merger, the Pacers and the three other surviving ABA teams also had to compensate the two remaining ABA franchises which were not a part of the merger. The new NBA teams also were barred from sharing in national TV revenues for four years. [2]

As a result of the steep price they paid to join the NBA, the Pacers were in a dire financial situation. It took a $100,000 contribution from a group of local businesses to keep the franchise going through June 1977. The team announced that unless season-ticket sales reached 8,000 by the end of July 1977, the club would be sold to someone who might take the franchise elsewhere. WTTV, which was the television flagship for Pacers' games at the time, offered to hold a 16.5 hour telethon to keep the team in Indiana. The telethon began on the night of July 3, 1977, and the next day, 10 minutes before the show was set to go off the air, it was announced that team officials had reached the 8,000-ticket goal. In part because of the telethon, the Pacers' average attendance jumped from 7,615 during the 1976–77 season to 10,982 during the 1977–78 season. [3]

They finished their inaugural NBA season with a record of 36–46, as Billy Knight and Don Buse were invited to represent Indiana in the NBA All-Star Game. This was one of the few highlights of the Pacers' first 13 years in the league--a time in which they had but one winning season and just two playoff appearances. A lack of year-to-year continuity became the norm for most of the next decade, as they traded away Knight and Buse before the 1977–78 season even started. They acquired Adrian Dantley in exchange for Knight, but Dantley (who was averaging nearly 27 points per game at the time) was traded in December, while the Pacers' second-leading scorer, John Williamson, was dealt in January.

As a result of their poor performance, the Pacers needed to resort to publicity stunts to attract fans' attention. Before the 1979 season started, they offered women's basketball star Ann Meyers a tryout contract and invited her to the team's training camp. She became the first and, to this date, only woman to try out for an NBA team, but did not make the final squad. [4]

During this time, the Pacers came out on the short end of two of the most one-sided trades in NBA history. In 1980, they traded Alex English to the Nuggets in order to reacquire former ABA star George McGinnis. McGinnis was long past his prime, and contributed very little during his two-year return. English, in contrast, went on to become one of the greatest scorers in NBA history. The next year, they traded a 1984 draft pick to the Portland Trail Blazers for center Tom Owens. Owens only played one year for the Pacers with little impact. This trade looked even more horrendous three years later. In 1983–84, the Pacers finished with the worst record in the Eastern Conference, which would have given the Pacers the second overall pick in the draft--the pick that that the Blazers famously used to select Sam Bowie while Michael Jordan was still available. As a result of the Owens trade, they were left as bystanders in the midst of one of the deepest drafts in NBA history--including such future stars as Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Sam Perkins, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton.

The Pacers made their first appearance in the NBA Playoffs in 1980–81, falling in the opening round to the Philadelphia 76ers in two straight games. It was the team's only playoff appearance from 1977 to 1986.

Clark Kellogg was drafted by the Pacers in the 1982 and showed tremendous promise, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting, but the Pacers finished the 1982–83 season with their all-time worst record of 20–62, and won only 26 games the following season. After winning 22 games in 1984–85 and 26 games in 1985–86, Jack Ramsay replaced George Irvine as coach and led the Pacers to a 41–41 record in 1986–87 and only their second playoff appearance as an NBA team. Chuck Person, nicknamed "The Rifleman" for his renowned long-range shooting, led the team in scoring as a rookie and won NBA Rookie of the Year honors. Their first playoff win in NBA franchise history was earned in Game 3 of their first-round, best-of-five series against the Atlanta Hawks, but it was their only victory in that series, as the Hawks defeated them in four games.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indiana_Pacers) www.nba.com