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 1/2-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
--Kelvin C. Bias
hanging in the rafters.