October 27, 1975
When George McGinnis first saw Hoosiers, a few tears crept down his cheek, a natural reaction for someone who grew up playing basketball in Indiana. "When I was a kid, I used to watch the state high school tournament," McGinnis says. "Basketball here is like a religion."
If so, McGinnis is one of its greatest apostles. Born and raised in Indianapolis, he led Washington High to the 1969 state basketball title, broke Oscar Robertson's state records for single-season and career scoring, and was named Indiana's Mr. Basketball after his senior season. That same year McGinnis met the Big O, who had played at nearby Crispus Attucks High 13 years earlier. "I was too awestruck to talk," he says.
McGinnis soon gave his fellow Hoosiers plenty to talk about. He was named All-America in his sophomore (and last) year at Indiana, led the Indiana Pacers to two ABA titles ('72 and '73), topped the league in scoring in 1974-75 (29.8 points per game) and that season earned co-MVP honors with Julius Erving of the New York Nets.
Tempted by the prospect of more money and wider recognition, McGinnis, a 6'8", 235-pound, surprisingly quick power forward, invoked an escape clause in his contract following the 1975 ABA playoffs. "I had strong feelings of wanting to stay in Indiana," he says, "but the Pacers couldn't match the offers." He signed a six-year, $3.1 million deal with the New York Knicks on May 30, 1975, but two months later NBA commissioner Larry O'Brien ruled that McGinnis's NBA rights were held by the Philadelphia 76ers and nullified the contract. McGinnis then signed a six-year, $3.2 million deal with the Sixers. "The really good players in the ABA were just as good or better in the NBA," he says. Despite the addition of Erving, who joined the Sixers after the ABA folded in '76, Philadelphia lost the '77 NBA Finals, squandering a 2-0 series lead over the Portland Trail Blazers. After a brief stint with the Denver Nuggets and a 2�-year return to the now NBA Pacers, McGinnis's career ended when he was waived by Indiana in October 1982, at age 32.
McGinnis, now 49, lived in Denver for a few years but returned to Indianapolis in 1986 with his wife, Lynda. In '92 the McGinnises founded the GM Supply Co., which provides abrasives-cutting tools to automotive and pharmaceutical manufacturers. The company shares a luxury box at Conseco Fieldhouse, where George and Lynda could see his retired number 30 hanging from the rafters as they watched Games 3, 4 and 5 of the Lakers-Pacers series. "One of the great things about being in Indiana is that if you have any level of basketball success here," McGinnis says, "the people never forget you."