Kings of the court


For some of his Backroads Indiana columns, Mike Barrett likes to feature people who made a name for themselves on the basketball court.

Here are three he recently spotlighted.

George McGinnis and Julius Erving

In the picture are two of the most dominant players of professional basketball in the 1970s … and here’s the story.

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That’s an ABA game. Just look at that ball.

On the right is Indiana basketball legend George McGinnis. He was a superstar at the highest level in the 1970s. He played on two (1972 and 1973) ABA championship teams with the Pacers.

In 1975, he was co-MVP of the ABA, and no one had a better season that year than McGinnis. His stats in 1975 were 29.8 points per game, 14.3 rebounds per game and and 6.3 assists per game.

Julius Erving, also known as Dr. J, played on two ABA championship teams with the New York Nets in 1974 and 1976 and also played on an NBA championship team with Philadelphia in 1983.

When he was co-MVP in 1975 with McGinnis, he averaged 27.9 points per game, 10.9 rebounds per game and 5.5 assists per game.

No basketball player ever has or ever will be cooler than Dr. J. In fact, Dr. J invented cool on the basketball courts. I saw Doc on TV recently, and he is now 66 years old, and he’s even a cool looking old guy.

In the four years McGinnis and Erving shared in the ABA, fans often debated which was the best.

Quinn Buckner

Quinn Buckner is one of my all-time favorite basketball players.

In my lifetime, the greatest floor leader in college basketball is Quinn, an Indiana Hoosiers guard from 1973 to 1976. Buckner was team captain of the Hoosiers’ 1976 undefeated national championship team.

One of the best defensive players in the history of college basketball, he was a pass-first point guard on offense with incredible leadership skills.

In the 1973 Mideast Regional finals against Kentucky, Buckner, a 6-foot-3 freshman guard, dominated the Wildcats with 16 points, 11 rebounds and five assists as Indiana won 72-65. Buckner fared well against Kentucky during his four-year career at IU, winning five times in six games.

Does anyone remember the 6-3 Buckner guarding 6-11 Bill Walton, the All-American center for UCLA in the 1973 Final Four? When IU center Steve Downing was forced to sit with foul trouble, IU coach Bob Knight assigned his point guard the task of keeping the ball from Walton.

Buckner did a tremendous job, and IU nearly pulled off a major upset against the Bruins, who won the NCAA championship two nights later with an undefeated season.

It’s hard to imagine today in a conference like the Big Ten, but during Buckner’s first two years at Indiana, he played both basketball and football. After his sophomore year, he made a decision to stick with just basketball, a decision that proved to be the right one.

When Buckner was a senior in 1976, he guided the Hoosiers to the NCAA championship and to an undefeated season of their own, which is still the last team to finish a college basketball season undefeated.

1976 was a big year for Buckner. Along with his NCAA championship, he won an Olympic gold medal that summer in basketball, and he was drafted in the first round of the NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.

In 1984, he won an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics.

He is one of only three players in the history of basketball to win a high school state championship, an NCAA championship and an NBA championship.

Buckner remains a popular face in the state of Indiana, as he is the TV color man for Indiana Pacers games. But for Indiana Hoosiers basketball fans, he will always be the leader of the 1976 perfect season.

Mike Barrett is a local resident with an interest in history. His Backroads Indiana columns regularly appear in The Tribune. Send comments to [email protected].

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