"Never has a player so good been seen by so few people. As Bob (Costas) said that I was one of the few lucky ones. I saw him play in high school and I covered him his entire ABA career. He was a combination of Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Sam Jones, and Elgin Baylor if you can believe it. It is true, Had he played his entire career in the NBA instead of the ABA, we would be talking about a top-50 talent. He definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame." - Peter Vecsey, formerly of NBC Sports on Indiana Pacers forward and ABA legend Roger Brown
Most people may not remember where they were on the night of January 30th 2012, but you definitely will never forget what your eyes saw.
Los Angeles Clippers battled the Oklahoma City Thunder at home on NBA TV, a 24-hour basketball network that most cable and satellite companies carry these days, Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin went to the top of the key to set a pick-and-roll for teammate Chris Paul. The fundamental basketball play worked flawlessly; as Griffin rolled off of Paul's defender after setting a human barrier, Paul nailed him in the chest cleanly with a bounce pass. At this point, the 6'10" Griffin who is known for his acrobatic and rim-rocking dunks, stormed straight to the hoop with one goal in mind.
As the crowd gasped for the excitement that was about to come, Thunder center Kendrick Perkins transitioned from one side of the lane to the other. If Perkins made it in time, he could block Griffin from making it the hoop with hopes of taking a charge. Most of the time, this defensive play will work. Most of the time, defensive players don't have the most impressive physical specimen in terms of raw power and jumping ability in the game of basketball barreling straight towards them. Before Perkins could even set his feet, Griffin soared straight into the air, and as Perkins jumped up in attempt to not become the top highlight of the night, Griffin slammed the ball through the hope in one of the most impressive dunks ever seen.
Instantly, just minutes after the dunk had erupted the Staples Center, tweets came pouring in through Twitter as the slam had become a worldwide trending topic. Before the third quarter was even finished, somebody had uploaded the video of the dunk onto YouTube and pandemonium had broke throughout the basketball world. By time the game had been finished, you could have watched the video on your phone, tablet, computer, or television to see the sensational play Griffin. By night's end, it was replayed over and over again on various sports networks, and will probably be known as the top play of the 2012 season, and will be mentioned among the top dunks of all-time.
Fortunately for Griffin, he will forever live on through the countless video highlights that can be found instantaneously on the world wide web. We will remember him at his physical peak, with his unrealistic video-game jumping ability and feverish tenacity, breaking the will of opponents with moments that will live on child's posters across the United States. But most importantly for Griffin, these moments will be able to live on for generations who wish to watch them, and he'll forever be penciled into basketball lore at the young age of 24 for those to see.
Indiana Pacers legend and three-time American Basketball Association champion Roger Brown doesn't have that luxury. Considered to be one of the greatest basketball players of the league and perhaps the best athlete to don the Pacers uniform, Brown's mythical stature lives on not through TwitVid or descriptions in 140 characters, but from archived articles of the past, aging books, and the memories of his teammates that shake their head in disbelief at the thought of how good Brown was.
If one were to envision the stereotypical ABA player from the early 1970's, there is a very good chance that visual would resemble Roger Brown in some way. Standing at 6'5" and 205 pounds, the dark-skinned Brown had hair curly that often grew into an afro, with a dominant mustache that rolled down his lips and to his chin. The size of his hands were massive, big enough to palm a ball relatively with ease and an athletic body that could ease past any defender on the court. If Brown wanted to get to a spot on the floor, he was going to make his way there with moves that he had invented right in front of everyone's eyes. It was safe to say that Brown would have been impressive for a basketball player that had played the sport endlessly through his high school, college, and professional years. It is safe to say that Brown was even more impressive because his journey through professional basketball didn't play out this way.
"And I have told people all of this all over. With two bad knees, he was as good as Michael Jordan. He was so effective at the end of a game, Slick would call a time-out when the game was close. Simple statements like 'Roger, put them to sleep', and nine times out of ten he would win the game for us." - Indiana Pacer and Class of 2012 Basketball Hall of Famer Mel Daniels
The legend of Roger Brown starts where the myths of many talented basketball players come from, on the blacktops of Brooklyn. By time Brown was a draw in the 1960's at Wingate High School, he had mastered the art of one-on-one basketball. Nicknamed the "Man of a Thousand Moves", Brown could find angles to the baskets with knee-buckling drives, stop on a dime for his patented one-handed fade-away jumper, pull up from 25-feet out, or just leave you in the dust for a layup with an array of charismatic moves. This all despite the fact that Brown had a remarkably bad eye-sight, and even through his old age claimed never shot at the front of the rim, but rather the front of the gigantic backboard since it was all he could see.
It is believed that he was as good as fellow Brooklyn baller and eventual professional basketball star Connie Hawkins, but those who were there to see Brown decimate Hawkins for 37 points in the semifinals of the New York City Public Schools Athletic League tournament to the point Hawks pulled himself out of the game in the third quarter.
At this point Brown was viewed as a prodigy, and was on his way to the University of Dayton with hopes of one day returning to New York City to play for the Knicks in the National Baksetball Association. Brown's dreams would never come to fruition.
As a freshman Brown had lived up to the hype, but along with Hawkins, fell into the trap of befriending Jack Molinas, a former University of Columbia All-American that had been banned from the NBA for betting on the outcomes of games in both the professional and college level, as well as paying athletes to shave points. It was never proven that Brown had shaved points at any point of his career, but like many young adults at the age of 18, Brown was inescapable of making a bad decision. Brown had accepted favors from Molinas, and despite being one of the top basketball players in the world, Brown was banned from the game he loved.
For the following years Brown found himself living as a normal young adult that's trying to make it by in the world. Brown worked the night shift as a injection machine operator at the General Motors Plant in Dayton, and played AAU ball occasionally through the day.
At that point Indiana Pacers General Manager Mike Storen had just signed with the newly-founded expansion team (literally Storen signed 10:00 a.m. that morning in 1967), and after being tipped by Indiana High School and NBA legend Oscar Robertson about a guy from Ohio, Storen drove straight to Dayton to sign the franchise's very first player. Never mind the fact that Storen had never heard of Roger Brown or seen him play, Storen was sold on the advice from Robertson that Brown was the best basketball player not playing in the NBA. Brown had impressed Robertson during a summer league game, despite having not played basketball at a high-level in over seven years.
So, the general manager Storen and the Pacers rolled the dice.
At that point, one would think Brown would relish at the opportunity to be playing once again. But it took some persuading from Storen to join the team, mostly due to his five years' of moving up the ladder at General Motors, as well as the fact his wife was a nurse. Eventually Brown would sign with the squad though for $17,000 with a $2,000 signing bonus.
Basketball, at least the one played with the red, white, and blue stripes, would never be the same in the state of Indiana again.
"Had Roger not gotten involved in that scandal, which he did nothing, he shouldn't have been it it. Roger would have right up there with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, he was that good. People have no idea how good he was. People don't remember is that he had two bad knees when he was here, and he was still better than anyone in the league. I would put Roger Brown talent-wise as one of the top five that have ever played the game. Nobody could guard him, I mean nobody could guard him. And one-on-one, and the thing is, when he got the ball and somebody was able to guard him, he got the ball to us. So he did things that I didn't even think were possible when he first came in as a rookie. I can remember him making some moves that I would just stop and look thinking, 'That's impossible, I can't believe that I just saw that'. That is how good he was." - Bob Netolicky, Pacers Forward and Two-Time ABA Champion
Pacers Playoffs Notebook: Remembering ABA Legend Roger Brown
Considered to be one of the greatest basketball players of the league and perhaps the best athlete to don the Pacers uniform, Roger Brown's mythical stature lives on not through TwitVid or descriptions in 140 characters, but from archived articles of the past, aging books, and the memories of his teammates that shake their heads at how good Brown really was.
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