George McGinnis, Naismith Hall of Famer, dies at 73 ‘following cardiac arrest’: Retired NBA and ABA All-Star remembered as ‘the definition of an Indiana basketball legend’

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • McGinnis played high school, college and ABA and NBA basketball in Indiana
  • Pacers revealed his death Thursday after he reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest 
  • DailyMail.com provides all the latest international sports news

George McGinnis, the former NBA and ABA All-Star who was later inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, has died at 73 after reportedly suffering a cardiac arrest.

The Indiana native’s medical emergency was first revealed on Tuesday by the Indianapolis Record Newspaper and long-time NBA insider Peter Vescey, who reported that McGinnis had been on life support for three days. 

‘The greatest Indiana Pacer ever is fighting for his life after going in to cardiac arrest,’ read a Facebook post on the newspaper’s account. ‘Please light a candle for George McGinnis.’

On Thursday, the Pacers revealed that McGinnis had passed away. 

‘From his all-state high school days to his time as an IU All-American and, of course, to his legendary ABA championship runs with the Pacers, George McGinnis shaped so many of the fondest basketball memories for generations of Hoosiers,’ read a statement from the Pacers and the Simon Family, which owns the team. 

George McGinnis #30 of the Philadelphia 76ers plays defense against the Boston Celtics during a game played circa 1977

George McGinnis, the former NBA and ABA All-Star who was later inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, is fighting for his life after reportedly suffering a cardiac arrest

The Pacers and the Simon Family, which owns the team, expressed their grief in a statement

The Pacers and the Simon Family, which owns the team, expressed their grief in a statement 

‘He was the very definition of an Indiana basketball legend, a champion, and Hall of Fame athlete,’ the statement continued. But he was more than that. George was family. A passionate advocate for his fellow ABA players and a present, smiling face around the franchise, George has been as synonymous with our Pacers franchise as anyone. He will be greatly missed, and all of us at Pacers Sports & Entertainment will keep George and his family in our prayers.’ 

McGinnis was honored by Indiana Hoosiers coach Mike Woodson, another Indianapolis native who followed his idol to Bloomington. 

‘I loved George McGinnis,’ Woodson said in a statement. ‘He meant so much not only to ISU and the state of Indiana, but to the entire basketball world.’

Not only did McGinnis play high school and college ball in Indiana, but he also played in the ABA and NBA over two separate stints with the Pacers.  

In fact, many in Indianapolis credit McGinnis with saving the Pacers, which periodically threatened to leave the city.

‘The Pacers are still around today in large part thanks to this man, who finally got his due in 2017 as a Naismith Hall of Fame Inductee,’ Pacers announcer Pat Boylan wrote on X. ‘RIP to an Indianapolis and Indiana legend.’

McGinnis (left) returned to the Pacers - this time in the NBA - before retiring in 1982

McGinnis (left) returned to the Pacers – this time in the NBA – before retiring in 1982

McGinnis is basketball royalty in the Hoosier state, where he was recently inducted into the Indiana University Athletics Hall of Fame. Not only is he from Indianapolis, but he played at IU in 1970 and 1971 before joining the ABA’s Pacers from 1971 until 1975. He would win two ABA titles during that time, and was named the ABA MVP in 1975 before joining the NBA the following season. 

It was in Philadelphia that McGinnis became a household name, playing alongside Julius Erving, Darryl Dawkins, Mike Dunleavy, World B. Free, Caldwell Jones and Doug Collins on a team that was famously upset by Maurice Lucas, Bill Walton and the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1977 NBA Finals.

‘He was built like Superman,’ Dr. J said in 2017 when McGinnis was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. ‘Until LeBron [James] came along, you never saw another guy that had George’s physical abilities on a basketball court.’

His time in Philadelphia was memorable, even if the 76ers failed to win a title during his tenure there. 

‘McGinnis’ Sixers’ teams were among the NBA’s best to never win a title,’ WFAN’s Joey Wahler wrote on X. 

A 76ers fan followed: ‘Every kid in Philly of a certain age grew up trying to imitate his one handed jumper. Then we realized if you didn’t have hands the size of George’s it was impossible. God bless Big Mac.’ 

The Sixers released a team statement on Thursday: ‘George McGinnis was a Hall of Famer on and off the court, earning several accolades during an ABA-NBA career that spanned a decade.

‘He joined our team in the mid-70s and proved to be an incredible force alongside Julius Erving – the duo leading our team to a 1977 NBA Finals appearance.

‘Our sincerest condolences go out to George’s family and friends. He will be sorely missed.’

George McGinnis has some fun with the Indiana Pacers mascot in April of 2004 in Indianapolis

George McGinnis has some fun with the Indiana Pacers mascot in April of 2004 in Indianapolis

McGinnis was a star at Washington High School in Indianapolis, where he and his future IU teammate Steve Downing led the school to a 31-0 record and state title in 1969.

The two would have similar success at Indiana under coach Lou Watson – one season before the school hired Bob Knight, the Hoosier legend who died earlier this year.

But McGinnis’ stay in Bloomington was brief, and he was soon off to the upstart ABA, where he was named to the All-Rookie team in 1972.

The Pacers were dominant in his first two seasons, winning a pair of ABA crowns under coach Slick Leonard, who passed away in 2021. He was at his best in 1974-75, averaging 29.8 points and 10.3 rebounds a game, although the Pacers would fall to Artis Gilmore, Dan Issel and the Kentucky Colonels in the ABA Finals that season.

Following the 1976 ABA-NBA merger, McGinnis would return to the Pacers in 1980 following a two-year stint with the Denver Nuggets. He ultimately retired in 1982.

He was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2017 alongside Tracy McGrady, Bill Self, and Rebecca Lobo. 

ᴀʀᴛɪᴄʟᴇ ꜱᴏᴜʀᴄᴇ

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