INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — George McGinnis, a Hall of Fame forward who was a two-time ABA champion and three-time All-Star in the NBA and ABA, died Thursday. He was 73.
The Indiana Pacers said he died early Thursday morning following complications from a cardiac arrest suffered last week at his home. McGinnis also struggled to walk in recent years after undergoing multiple back surgeries because of a hereditary condition.
His uniquely deep, deliberate voice, warm personality and passion for the sport helped him create a tight bond with the fans around his basketball-rich home state, Indiana. Here, they watched McGinnis' development from Indianapolis prep star into an unstoppable force in his one and only college season at Indiana University before eventually taking the Indiana Pacers to those two titles.
“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 a statement from the Simon Family and Pacers Sports & Entertainment. “He was the very definition of an Indiana basketball legend, a champion, and Hall of Fame athlete.”
McGinnis put together a sterling resume few could match — even today.
It all started with McGinnis taking advantage of Spencer Haywood’s Supreme Court victory in 1971 that allowed underclassmen to turn pro based on a hardship case.
McGinnis wound up signing with his hometown team, two years after his father had been killed when he fell off a scaffold while working as a carpenter. His trademark one-handed jump shot helped him become an instant cornerstone in Indiana's two title runs as well as the Philadelphia 76ers turnaround in the mid-1970s.
The result: He earned multiple all-ABA and all-NBA honors and was named the 1973 ABA playoff MVP in just his second pro season. And after making the ABA’s all-rookie team in 1971-72, he took home all-NBA honors in his first season (1975-76) in the more established league, too.
McGinnis’ best season came in 1974-75 when he won the ABA scoring title (29.8 points per game), finished second in steals (2.6), third in assists (6.3) and fifth in rebounds (14.3). He shared the league’s MVP Award with Hall of Famer Julius Erving, his future teammate in Philly.
For McGinnis, it was just the warmup to a historic playoff performance that included a 51-point, 17-rebound, 10-assist triple-double, two series in which he topped 200 points, 100 rebounds and 50 assists, and although he didn’t win a third title, he was the playoff leader in scoring (581 points), rebounding (286) and assists (148).
Those numbers helped fuel McGinnis’ next trailblazing effort — switching leagues on his terms.
With the ABA struggling financially and the 76ers still holding his contractual rights two years after drafting him in 1973, McGinnis was advised to pursue more money in the NBA. McGinnis wanted to negotiate with a team of his choosing and initially signed a six-year, $2.4 million contract with the New York Knicks.
When NBA Commissioner Larry O’Brien voided the deal and punished the Knicks, McGinnis accepted a six-year, $3.2 million contract with the 76ers that included no‐cut, no‐trade and no-option clauses.
He spent the next three seasons with the 76ers, helping them end a four-year playoff drought as home attendance increased by more than 5,000 per game in his first season. The next season, with Erving, the 76ers reached the NBA Finals before losing to Portland in six games.
McGinnis was traded to Denver in 1978 but was dealt back to the Pacers midway through the 1979-80 season. He finished his 11-year career with 2 1/2 more seasons back home in Indiana.
McGinnis had 17,009 points, 9,233 rebounds and 3,089 assists and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.
At Indiana, he became the first sophomore to lead the Big Ten in scoring (29.9 points) and rebounding (14.7), earning third team All-American honors after sitting out his freshman season because NCAA rules prohibited freshman from competing.
At Indianapolis Washington High School, McGinnis won the state's coveted Mr. Basketball Award and Mr. Basketball USA in 1969 while leading his school to the 1968-69 state championship. Washington was just the third undefeated state titlist in Indiana history.
McGinnis also is a member of the Indiana's athletic Hall of Fame and is one of four former Pacers players to have his jersey number retired.
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