In case this is your first time here, here’s the concept of This Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words: I take an interesting picture from the history of the Indiana Pacers from ABA glory to the modern era and literally write 1,000 words (or more) about the photo.
While typically these columns take a more historical look at the Pacers (you can read about Reggie Miller, Roger Brown, the GQ Photoshoot curse, and the Day After the Brawl here), this current group just did something that will remain in Pacers fans memories for those at the game and watching from home for a long, long time.
Without knowing any context from the picture above, you’d probably think that Cory Joseph hit a buzzer beater to win the game. The Pacers celebrated. You know, the normal stuff that would inspire a picture with so much excitement as they crowd around a single man.
In reality, the Pacers were blowing out the tanking Atlanta Hawks with a little over five minutes left in the fourth quarter and Joseph stole a pass at half-court, made an and-one layup, and fell to the ground after the contact.
That’s it. That’s what caused the frenzied joy.
Not exactly the expected setup for an all-time memorable moment, but that’s just this Pacers team that continues to capture the hearts of its fanbase every night. Here’s the full play below.
Every player that was on the court for the Pacers seemed to be in a race to help Joseph up off the floor and nearly ran in unison to assist their fallen teammate. Even a couple of players on the bench in Joe Young and Alex Poythress for Indiana couldn’t help but run over to assist him.
Joseph told the story from his perspective to Mark Montieth of Pacers.com:
“I’m laying down,” he said. “Joe (Young) came off the bench and he was right beside me, and I looked toward the bench and they were so excited and coming near me. Then I looked down the court and saw five guys literally sprinting with smiles on their faces.”
“All I was thinking when I was laying on the ground was, ‘These guys are going to run me over! Somebody’s going to trip over somebody’s foot because they’re so close together, and somebody’s going to land on me. This is not a good thing for me right now.’
“When nobody ran me over and I got up, I was laughing because it was so hilarious.”
The entire moment perfectly captures the spirit and heart of this group that clearly enjoys each other on and off the court. It was a wonderful encapsulation of who this team is and what they’re about.
The chemistry this team has is unparalleled for a group that hasn’t even played a full season together. The Pacers have more chemistry than Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan did in the 1990s.
“At the end of the day, we need each other,” said Victor Oladipo. “That just shows you right there what kind of men we have in this locker room and how special this locker room is.”
Lance Stephenson is the Lord of Hype at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Any insane moment where the crowd goes insane, always seems to be initiated by something that he does. This season-defining moment was no different as Stephenson started running, saying “I’ve got him! I’ve got him!” according to Montieth and Sabonis took to the challenge of racing him. Oladipo and Thaddeus Young also ran as they all got to Joseph at the same time.
“We didn’t even know each other were doing that,” Oladipo claimed to reporters after the game. “We just saw Cory on the ground. When somebody’s on the ground, you’ve got to help him up. This is a family. We’re in unison. We’re in this together. Cory made a great play, an and-one — we’re going to rush over there and help him up. It’s like no man down. You leave no man to die, and that’s the mentality we’ve got.”
Oladipo’s leadership through constant positivity has been a godsend for a team that has struggled to find a good leader since David West opted out of the final year of his contract a few seasons ago. It’s just one of countless things that has made him everything the Pacers could have possibly hoped he’d be and more when they acquired him in the trade with Oklahoma City.
“I think it just shows how much we care about each other,” said Sabonis, who has chemistry with everyone. “The most important thing is picking someone up when they’re on the floor, and I feel like everybody ran and got him.”
Every single person that ran to get him assisted in pulling him up including Young and Poythress who ran off the bench to help their teammate under the basket. You’d be hard-pressed to find another instance of six different players helping one guy off the ground. It’s no wonder that Joseph called it “hilarious” and every player’s happiness shines through so easily in these pictures.
The smiles on these faces have been etched into the hearts of anyone that had the pleasure of taking this moment in person or on television. It’ll live on forever even if this group of players is destined to only be together for a short time.
Kevin Pritchard and company gave this team the opportunity to stick together at the deadline by making no moves, but the reality is that their contracts are likely to make many members of the group short-lived Indiana Pacers.
Darren Collison, Joseph, Thad Young, Al Jefferson, Bojan Bogdanovic, Glenn Robinson III have all been key pieces to the team but either have partial guarantees on their deals, player options or will be a restricted free agent next summer that make them more likely to no longer be on the team. Even if all the chips fall right with Young and Joseph opting in and the others avoiding being traded, it may only be a delay of one more season before most are unrestricted free agents and guys have to make the best financial decision for their careers.
Soak in every moment from this group. You may not ever see anything like them again.