There was also the curious ritual in which McGinnis always seemed to be wrestling in the Pacer locker room with rookie Forward Billy Knight, the slender Knight never failing to "defeat" his brawnier—by nearly 40 pounds—teammate. "I guess George never had a younger brother and I'm like a substitute," says Knight. "That's why he lets me win." McGinnis says, "If Billy was on another team, I'd have him too scared to even speak to me."
During last spring's semifinal playoffs, the Pacers were flying to Denver for the fifth game and McGinnis got to musing about the ABA and Indiana and all the games he had played in towns like Hampton Roads, Va. and Greensboro, N.C. "Do you realize I've been to Memphis a million times and I've never been to San Francisco?" he said. Soon he was saying, "The NBA is a tougher league. If I spend the rest of my career in the ABA, I can be perfectly happy. But the NBA would be a challenge." He gazed out the window, then added, "By the time I retire, I want to have drained every talent in my body."
When, months later, McGinnis signed with Philadelphia, Indianapolis Star Columnist Bob Collins wrote acidly, " George, I have to believe you were playing games with us." A different sentiment was voiced by the Pacers' Billy Keller, another homegrown Indianapolis boy. "I can't blame George for moving on," he said. "Any of us would have done the same thing."
There are moments when McGinnis, reluctant to go to Philadelphia in the first place, seems tentative about being there now. "I hope 76er fans don't expect too much from me," he will say. In the next breath, though, he is eager for the season to begin: "I'm really excited about being with the 76ers. I think we're going to have a good season."
And there are other encouraging signs. McGinnis' first idea was to rent a house in Philadelphia, as though he might at any moment find he had made a mistake and want to flee. But he has warmed to his new surroundings and he is now negotiating to buy a house. And on the outskirts of the city of Brotherly Love are billboards reading, BY GEORGE, WE'VE GOT IT!