INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana Pacers will open their 50th season Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Every fan who attends the game will get a Bobby “Slick” Leonard bobble head doll. Leonard coached the ABA Pacers, and led the team to three championships. He’s been broadcasting Pacer games for more than 30 years.
24-Hour News 8 sat down with Slick Leonard ahead of the milestone season.
“It’s been my life, really. You know 50 years is a long time,” said Leonard.
The Terre Haute native has witnessed Pacers history firsthand as coach and broadcaster.
“I look at the progress from the old fairgrounds coliseum, to Market Square to Bankers Life– with the idea in mind, that there was a time that we almost lost the franchise in the 70s,” said Leonard.
He credits his wife Nancy for organizing a telethon to save the team.
“They had to put together 8,000 season tickets in two weeks,” said Leonard.
Saving the team was one of Leonard’s most memorable moments in his career, but more people may know him for his famous catchphrase “Boom baby.”
Leonard said the phrase started the first time he was coaching in the playoffs, when Billy Keller made a last second shot.
“It hit the net and I said ‘boom!’ and then I added ‘baby,’ so I said ‘ Boom Baby,” said Leonard.
To say the phrase caught on, would be an understatement. Leonard said his signature phrase really grew in popularity throughout Reggie Miller’s career.
“Eighteen years with Reggie there were a whole lot of boom babies,” said Leonard.
The phrase means more outside the arenas.
“The enjoyment I got was that you could drive around play grounds around Indiana and little kids are out there playing and shooting saying ‘boom baby,’ said Leonard.
Leonard said he doesn’t see himself as a legend, though many basketball fans would disagree.
“It’s a legacy, that you leave for your family. For your children, for your grandchildren. That’s what it means to me,” said Leonard.
All these years later, Leonard shows no signs of stopping.
“You don’t retire. If you retire you die…the Pacers are our life,” said Leonard.
WEB EXTRA: Slick Leonard speaks about plane crash with Minneapolis Lakers.