Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame
The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame honors high school, college, and professional basketball players associated with the state. Those enshrined include Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, George McGinnis, John Wooden, Rick Mount, and many others. Some have become better known for other activities. Lamar Lundy, who was an MVP at Purdue in both basketball and football, became part of the Los Angeles Rams' "Fearsome Foursome" pass rush. Lee Hamilton became a multiple term U.S. congressman after a successful high school basketball career. Inside the hall you can listen to John Wooden explain his "Pyramid of Success" philosophy, shoot some free throws, watch historic game films, or measure your vertical leap against Oscar Robertson's (They should let white guys measure their vertical leap against Larry Bird's). In this article four of Indiana's finest basketball players are featured:
- Oscar Robertson
- John Wooden
- Larry Bird
- George McGinnis
A significant amount of space is rightly devoted to Oscar Robertson. After leading Crispus Attucks High School to two state basketball crowns, he went on to Cincinnati University. While at Cincinnati he led the country in scoring as a sophomore, junior, and senior (He did not lead as a freshman because freshman weren't allowed to play at that time). Although he took them to the NCAA finals twice, both times they were knocked out by a powerful Ohio State team, which featured Jerry Lucas and John Havlichek. Oscar Robertson went on to play for the Cincinnati Royals in the NBA, where the Boston Celtics dominated. Traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971, Oscar teamed with Kareem Abdul Jabbar to win the NBA championship in only the third year of the franchise's existence. Many consider Oscar Robertson the greatest basketball player they ever saw. He is still the only player to average a triple double for an entire season. During the 1961-1962 season he averaged:
- 30.8 Points
- 12.5 Rebounds
- 11.4 Assists
With 10 NCAA titles with UCLA, John Wooden is often considered the greatest college basketball coach of all time. This impressive achievement overshadows the fact that he was a great player in his own right. He was the first person to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts as a player & coach. Wooden was born in the tiny town of Hall, Indiana, located in Morgan county. Playing for Martinsville High School, he led them three times to the state finals, winning one championship. He went on to play college basketball at Purdue for coach "Piggy" Lambert. While at Purdue he became the first three-time consensus All-American. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Wooden coached Indiana State University. From there he went on to UCLA where, in addition to winning ten championships, he coached some of basketball's greatest players, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Bill Walton.
One of the great shooters of all time, Larry Bird grew up in the West Baden - French Lick area, which contributed to his later nickname of "The Hick from French Lick". After high school, he accepted a college scholarship to play at Indiana University for coach Bob Knight. As a small town kid, he was overwhelmed by the size of the university and left after only a month. He worked for the French Lick Street Department, working on a garbage truck & performing other duties. Two years later he returned to college, playing basketball at Indiana State. There he took Indiana State to the NCAA finals, where he lost to Michigan State, led by Magic Johnson. Bird & Johnson would later compete for NBA championships, playing for the Boston Celtics & Los Angeles Lakers, respectively. With the Celtics Bird won three NBA titles & three MVP awards. After retirement, he had a brief but successful coaching career, taking the Indiana Pacers to the NBA finals for the first time in their history. After three years as head coach, he moved into the Pacers front office. After the 2011-2012 season, Larry Bird was named the NBA Executive of the Year, becoming the only person in NBA history to be named league MVP, Coach of the Year & Executive of the Year.
In my opinion, George McGinnis is one of the overlooked basketball greats, because his best years were in the American Basketball Association, prior to its merger with the NBA. After leading Washington High School in Indianapolis to the state championship, he went on to Indiana University. In his only season at IU, George led the Big Ten in rebounding & scoring, averaging almost 30 points a game. He then went on to play four seasons with the Indiana Pacers of the ABA. His accomplishments during those seasons include:
- Won 2 NBA championships
- 3 ABA All-Star selections
- 1 ABA scoring title
- Co-MVP in 1975 with Julius (Dr. J) Erving
McGinnis left the Pacers & joined the Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA. During his NBA career his team made the 1977 NBA finals, where they lost to Bill Walton's Portland Trailblazers. George was also selected to 3 NBA all-star teams. His number 30 jersey was one of the first three jerseys retired by the Pacers, along with those of teammates Mel Daniels (34) & Roger Brown (35).