As fans dressed in blue and gold filter into the newly remodeled Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and reach the concourse, a disc jockey pumps up the Indiana Pacers faithful with upbeat music.
This season, a select group of DJs was chosen to rotate appearances at home games. They kick off in the main concourse an hour and a half before tipoff, and then it transitions to the in-game DJ.
Iman Tucker, a Seymour native who now lives in Carmel, is among the DJs entertaining fans during the 2021-22 season.
He had the honor of setting the tone for the season as the DJ before the Pacers’ home opener Oct. 23 against the Miami Heat.
Once he saw the first person walk through the doors of the arena, Tucker said he knew it was showtime.
“Each time I looked up, I saw someone filming with a huge grin on their face, kids coming by just in awe of the art. I was so grateful to be there with them,” he said. “Now, I just have to work on being more present and interacting more closely with the fans.”
On Wednesday night, Tucker was back at the turntable as the Pacers hosted the New York Knicks. This season, he expects to do around 15 to 20 of the 41 home games.
Having a background in sports and becoming a professional DJ, Tucker said serving as one of the DJs at Pacers games has been a goal for a while.
After graduating from Seymour High School in 2012, he studied marketing and sports management and competed in track and field at the University of Indianapolis. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 2016 and two years later obtained a Master of Business Administration in data analytics.
At the end of his college athletic experience, Tucker said he needed to find a substitute to stay connected and involved in the entertainment industry and community in Indianapolis.
He bought beginner-level DJ equipment to entertain his college teams early on but never took the art serious until he met Nick Saligoe, aka DJ Metrognome, and enrolled in his DJ academy, Deckademics. Also at the time, DJs Direct owner Jeremy Gearries was teaching Tucker about the business side of the art.
As a professional DJ, he mixed for the Pacers along with universities, the Indianapolis Colts, Christian conferences, Indy 500 Festival, NCAA basketball tournament, Indy mini marathon, Tim Tebow’s Night to Shine and more.
Tucker landed an opportunity to run and grow a technology tool, CardBoard It, a digital whiteboard tool used for software development, and start a disc jockey and entertainment company, Believe Brand Ent., and a faith-based apparel company, Believe Brand Co.
“When I first got started, it was out of curiosity and interest,” he said. “I had seen videos of turntablists and DJs manipulate sounds by spinning and playing records, but what really stood out to me was how music brings people together. Sports and music bring complete strangers together in a way I’m not sure much else does.”
He expanded his personal brand into a DJ team that can do lighting, sound, DJ’ing and MC’ing for small- to large-scale events in the region.
“As my skill set grew and those who believed in me continued to come out to events, tune in to the livestreams and show that they believed in me, it was the catalyst that allowed me to grow in confidence in myself,” he said. “I spent hours working on my craft because I did not want to let those around me down. They spend their hard-earned money to come to these events. I owe it to them to be prepared and give my best.”
Tucker said his career came to a point where he was either going to stay where he was at or push himself to do more with it and really invest.
“There were so many that loved what I was doing but also so many mentors in my life that I really looked up to that challenged the longevity of a DJ career,” he said.
Tucker then landed a unique opportunity to provide a live mix show for the Great Lakes Valley Conference basketball championship and the NCAA March Madness tournament.
“To connect with the fans, hype up the athletes and bring opposing teams together was an experience like no other,” he said. “It was at that point where I realized if we were going to do this, we had to go all in.”
His team rallied behind him, and they began doing something they had never done before — reaching out to all of the contacts in the spaces they wanted to be in and marketing the experience.
They earned a spot in The City League championship game, and then Tucker received a note from the Pacers saying they wanted to have him as one of the DJs on the concourse this season.
“At that point, I gave it up to God and released the thought,” he said. “If it was in his will, then I would be selected. At that point, I felt like I had done the work. Now, it’s just waiting for the yes.”
When he got the yes, he didn’t have much time to celebrate.
“I was ready to get to work and start preparing my crates and library for the event,” Tucker said. “I just wanted to give my best so that they would want me to stick around. It meant so much to me.”
While track and field ended up being the sport that worked out best in terms of his athletic career, Tucker said those who really know him knew basketball was always where his heart was and still is.
“I love the game,” he said. “I thank everyone who allowed me to share the gift of the sport with them. It’s really all of them I have to thank because would I have aspired to get involved with the Pacers had it not been for Seymour and the impact basketball had on my life? I’m not sure.”
He said his grandparents introduced him to the game. He watched Pacers games with them growing up, and he and his brother bonded through their appreciation of the game.
Later, he played basketball for SHS despite being diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma in December 2008 at age 14.
“Everyone who allowed me to learn the game and invest into sport created a soft spot in my heart for basketball,” he said. “I knew that I wanted to be involved in athletics but more importantly use my giftings in the sport of basketball and bring a unique touch to the experience.”
This season, Tucker is paying homage to the history and the family that kept the Pacers franchise alive, Bobby “Slick” and Nancy Leonard.
“I cannot put into words what the Leonard family means to myself personally with how they have supported me and my work, but to think their work decades ago is still impacting an entire city and state, wow! That is a remarkable impact,” Tucker said.
He had the privilege of attending Slick’s celebration of life service May 12 at the fieldhouse.
“As I sat there listening to the amazing words everyone had to say about him, his character, his aggressive but loving nature, I aspire to be even just a fraction of that someday,” Tucker said. “It was so remarkable, a life well lived. He made it clear that he could not have done it without the belief and encouragement of his wife and the state that believed in him. I can relate to that on a deep level. It is our team that has made all of this possible for me.”
At Pacers games this season, Tucker is incorporating Slick’s iconic “Boom Baby!” and other sounds relevant to the 1970s in-game experience.
He’s also wearing ABA classics that draw attention to the franchise’s deep history, and on behalf of the family, he designed a vintage T-shirt to celebrate all of the incredible seasons of Slick’s life and will be donning it during his sets.
“I am just so thankful for that family and the legacy,” Tucker said. “Their work saved a franchise that I now have the privilege to work with decades later. I am so grateful.”
As he gets more ingrained into the Pacers organization, Tucker has his eyes on 2024 when Indianapolis hosts the NBA All-Star Game.
“This art and these experiences mean so much to me,” he said. “To have the ability to serve people through the expression of sound and music is a special privilege I never want to take for granted. … I don’t know what other NBA team fans are like, but I do know we have something special here in Indianapolis.”