Two-time ABA champion and Indiana Mr. Basketball winner George McGinnis dies at 73

by Ryan Lee
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Renowned basketball figure George McGinnis, a Hall of Fame forward celebrated for his exceptional achievements, passed away at the age of 73. McGinnis, a two-time ABA champion and three-time NBA and ABA All-Star, succumbed to complications arising from a cardiac arrest he experienced last week at his residence. In recent years, his mobility had been hampered by a series of back surgeries necessitated by a hereditary condition.

George McGinnis endeared himself to fans with his distinctive deep voice, warm personality, and unwavering passion for the sport, forging a strong connection with the basketball-loving state of Indiana. His journey from being a standout high school player in Indianapolis to a dominant force during his single collegiate season at Indiana University and ultimately leading the Indiana Pacers to two championships left an indelible mark on the Hoosier state.

McGinnis’s remarkable career was launched when he seized the opportunity presented by Spencer Haywood’s 1971 Supreme Court victory, allowing underclassmen to turn professional under hardship circumstances. Choosing to play for his hometown team, he became a cornerstone of Indiana’s championship successes and contributed significantly to the Philadelphia 76ers’ resurgence in the mid-1970s with his iconic one-handed jump shot.

McGinnis garnered multiple all-ABA and all-NBA honors and earned the 1973 ABA playoff MVP title in only his second professional season. He continued to excel in the more established NBA, securing all-NBA honors in his inaugural season (1975-76). His peak performance occurred in the 1974-75 season when he clinched the ABA scoring title, ranking high in steals, assists, and rebounds. Notably, he shared the league’s MVP Award with the legendary Julius Erving, who would later become his teammate in Philadelphia.

The apex of McGinnis’s career culminated in a historic playoff run, highlighted by a 51-point, 17-rebound, 10-assist triple-double and other impressive feats. Although he fell short of securing a third championship, he led the playoffs in scoring, rebounding, and assists.

McGinnis’s pioneering spirit extended beyond the court, as he strategically navigated the changing basketball landscape. Amid financial struggles in the ABA and contractual disputes, he sought greater financial security in the NBA. Ultimately, he negotiated a groundbreaking six-year, $3.2 million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers, complete with no-cut, no-trade, and no-option clauses. This move significantly impacted the team’s fortunes, ending a playoff drought and bringing about a surge in home attendance.

While his career took him to various teams, including a return to the Pacers, McGinnis’s legacy remained rooted in Indiana. He concluded his 11-year career with impressive statistics, amassing over 17,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, and 3,000 assists. His contributions to the sport were duly recognized with his induction into the Hall of Fame in 2017.

At Indiana University, McGinnis became the first sophomore to lead the Big Ten in both scoring and rebounding, earning All-American honors. His high school days at Indianapolis Washington High School were equally illustrious, as he secured the coveted Mr. Basketball Award and Mr. Basketball USA in 1969 while leading his team to a state championship.

George McGinnis’s enduring impact on the world of basketball is further underscored by his inclusion in Indiana’s athletic Hall of Fame and the retirement of his jersey number, making him one of just four former Pacers players to receive this honor. His contributions to the sport and his beloved home state of Indiana will be cherished for generations to come.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Basketball Legend

Who was George McGinnis?

George McGinnis was a prominent basketball figure known for his exceptional career as a two-time ABA champion, three-time NBA and ABA All-Star, and Hall of Fame forward.

How did George McGinnis impact the Indiana basketball scene?

McGinnis, with his roots in Indiana, made a significant impact, transitioning from a local high school star to leading the Indiana Pacers to two championships. His deep connection with the state and its basketball culture left an enduring legacy.

What were some of George McGinnis’s career highlights?

McGinnis had an impressive career, earning multiple all-ABA and all-NBA honors, winning the ABA scoring title in 1974-75, and sharing the league MVP Award with Julius Erving. He also delivered historic playoff performances, showcasing his versatile skills.

How did George McGinnis navigate the changing basketball landscape?

McGinnis strategically leveraged his options during a period of financial challenges in the ABA and contractual disputes. He negotiated a groundbreaking contract with the Philadelphia 76ers, which had a transformative effect on the team’s fortunes.

What were George McGinnis’s achievements beyond his playing career?

Beyond his on-court accomplishments, McGinnis’s legacy extended to the Hall of Fame induction in 2017, recognition in Indiana’s athletic Hall of Fame, and the retirement of his jersey number by the Pacers, cementing his status as a basketball icon.

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