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'Slick' Leonard: Yet Another Reason to Love the Pacers

Editor’s Note, Feb. 14, 2014: The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announces its Class of 2014 inductees today, and Pacers broadcaster Bobby “Slick” Leonard is among them. The following originally appeared among IM’s “23 Reasons to Love the Pacers—Again!” in the November 2012 print edition.

Pacers radio play-by-play announcer Mark Boyle has one rule for analysts who share his air: “When I talk, you don’t.” Of course, Bobby “Slick” Leonard, three-time-champion coach of the ABA Pacers and longtime color man, broke that stricture in their first game together.

It was 1991, playoffs, Boston Garden, and Chuck Person launched a three. As Boyle described the ball leaving Person’s fingertips and arcing toward the rim, Leonard steamrolled him with a bellowing “BOOM, BABY!” No one had explained to Boyle another, more critical rule of Pacers broadcasts: Don’t talk while Slick goes “boom.”

Leonard’s Indiana twang is as much a part of the Pacers as the old hand-gripping-ball logo, and he’s probably their biggest fan. (With all the atta boys and come on, refs, you’d think he was still coaching the team.) “He’s not a broadcaster,” says Boyle. “So I, as the professional, figured it was up to me to adapt to him. It’s not difficult, but it’s very unique, in that if things are going badly, he’ll go a half-hour without saying anything—because he’s sulking.”

Okay, so he’s a homer. But he’s our homer. 

 

Photo: Slick Leonard, courtesy Indiana Pacers

Since first joining Indianapolis Monthly in 2000, West has written about a wide range of subjects including crime, history, arts and entertainment, pop culture, politics, and food. His feature stories have twice been noted in the Best American Sports Writing anthology and have received top honors from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. “The Collapse,” West’s account of the 2011 Indiana State Fair tragedy, was a 2013 National City and Regional Magazine Awards finalist in the category of Best Reporting. He lives on the near-east side.
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