The Indiana Pacers have been a sneaky good franchise despite never winning an NBA championship. The Pacers have been a tough playoff opponent for years. The franchise has had some appearances in the Conference Finals, pushing some of the greats like Michael Jordan and LeBron James to the brink of elimination.
The Pacers have some strong players in the history of their franchise. Jermaine O’Neal, Rick Smits, Danny Granger, and Mel Daniels all have a special place in Indianapolis. For others, they have gone down as legendary players not only in Indy but the entire NBA. One player stands above the rest when you break it down.
Here are the franchise awards for the Pacers.
GOAT Of The Franchise - Reggie Miller
This is probably the easiest decision when it comes to deciding player awards. Miller is the all-time leading scorer in franchise history and has nearly doubled the career points of the runner-up Smits. Miller owns 25,279 career points with the Pacers. His all-time scoring record isn’t the only record he holds either.
Miller still owns the record for the most games, minutes, field goals, free throws, assists, and steals. He owns the most offensive and defensive win shares while owning a massive record of 174.4 total win shares. When Miller left the NBA, he was the all-time leading three-point shooter with 2,560 threes. With Miller leading the way, the Pacers made their last appearance in the NBA Finals in 2000.
Rookie Of The Franchise - Clark Kellogg
While Kellogg didn’t last very long in the NBA, his first three seasons in the league were strong. Specifically, his rookie season was one of the best. During the 1982-83 season, Kellogg averaged 20.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.5 blocks. It was the best season of his career, which only lasted five seasons.
The last two seasons of Kellogg’s career combined for 23 games. His rookie season was the only year he played more than 80 games and his only 20-point per game season. Chuck Person deserves an honorable mention as he is the only Pacers player in league history to win Rookie of the Year. In 1987, Person averaged 18.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.2 blocks per game.
Offensive Player Of The Franchise - Reggie Miller
Miller owns just about every offensive record for the Pacers. He still owns the record for points scored in a game with 57 points set in 1992. As mentioned, he left the NBA as the all-time leading three-point shooter. He was regarded as the league’s best outside shooter before outside shooting became the norm of the regular NBA.
Only four players have ever scored at least 50 points in a game. O’Neal scored 55 points in 2005, while T.J. Warren is the closest player to reach the record, having scored 53 points in 2020. In the end, the consistent sharpshooting of Miller allows him to own this award. Miller averaged more than 20 points per game six times in his career while finishing his career shooting 39.5% from three-point range.
Defensive Player Of The Franchise - Ron Artest
A couple of players deserve a shoutout. For starters, Paul George was an All-Defensive First Team talent and the best defender of the teams that made the Conference Finals in the early 2010s. Mel Daniels finished his career as the all-time leading rebounder, while O’Neal was the all-time leading rebounder. With that said, this award goes to the player formerly known as Ron Artest and Metta World Peace.
Artest holds the best defensive rating in team history for a reason. Artest was a three-time All-Defensive selection with the Pacers, including making the First Team in 2004 and 2006, and the Second Team in 2003. He was the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year when the Pacers made a run to the NBA Finals before losing to the Pistons in the Conference Finals. Artest was a strong defender that had no issue with getting right in your face.
Coach Of The Franchise - Larry Bird
Larry Bird the player was special. Larry Bird the coach was equally great. In 1997, Bird accepted the position of head coach. Despite having no coaching experience, he led the team to a 58-24 record, which was the franchise’s best record since joining the NBA. The 1998 playoffs featured the Pacers pushing the Chicago Bulls to seven games in the Conference Finals. He was named Coach of the Year for his efforts.
Bird led the Pacers to two straight Central Division titles in 1999 and 2000, which included a trip to the NBA Finals in 2000. After the 2000 season, he delivered on his promise that he would only coach the team for three seasons. Bird also enjoyed a successful tenure as the President of Basketball Operations for the Pacers, where he was also named Executive of the Year in 2012.
Fan Favorite - Reggie Miller
From 1987 to 2004, Miller gave fans in Indianapolis something to watch. He was charismatic with a swagger that he was the best player on the floor. Miller also excelled at a shot that was not utilized to its fullest back in the 90s. During this era, it was the day of the strong center, while Michael Jordan was the one outlier. While Miller never got past Jordan in the playoffs, he was a strong rival that pushed Jordan to his limits.
Without Miller, those Pacers teams would not have been as competitive. Instead, Miller gave the fans a player that made almost 40% of his three-point shots, while finishing with nearly every record he could have. Almost 20 years later since his last season, he remains at the top of those leaderboards. Not many players spend their entire career with one team, so Miller has to be loved for his longevity.