Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield is switching from No. 24 to No. 7. Normally a player switching numbers is no big deal. But Jermaine O’Neal, who famously wore No. 7 for Indiana, is wondering where the respect is for former great Pacers players.
“I love Buddy and the work that he puts in. My statement has nothing to do with him,” Jermaine wrote, providing a caveat for what would follow.
“It is disappointing to watch teams every year recognize and celebrate the players who have been the franchise’s very best players on and off the court but yet Pacers don’t. It’s been confusing and disappointing to say the least!”
Hield is a good player and enjoyed his best season in the league last year in Indiana. He was a career-high +1.7 EPM. His efficiency numbers were also career highs, 59.6 eFG% and 62.2 TS%. He shot 42.5% from three on 8.5 attempts per game.
But he is no O’Neal.
O’Neal Is One Of The Greatest Pacers Ever
The former Pacers’ big man was a franchise player in Indiana. In his seven seasons, the Pacers made the playoffs six times. He enjoyed his greatest individual success in Indiana. All six All-Star, and three All-NBA selections happened as a member of the Pacers.
As to whether or not his jersey should be retired, ehhh. Teams have all different criteria for whose jerseys they retire.
Reggie Miller is no doubt the greatest Indiana Pacers player. Then you consider Mel Daniels from the late 1960’s – 1970s and George McGinnis from the 1970s.
Then there’s Paul George, who in seven seasons in Indiana was a four-time All-Star, three-time All-NBA, and three-time All-Defensive selection. The Pacers made the playoffs six times in his seven seasons.
O’Neal is in that company with George. He’s no worse than the fifth-best Pacers player ever.
In that respect, he is due some honor or recognition.
The Malice In The Palace
But there is something that is likely being held against him.
O’Neal was a part of the infamous “Malice in the Palace” on Nov. 19, 2004. During a game against the Detroit Pistons, when tempers flared between both teams, a fan threw a drink at the Pacers’ Ron Artest.
Artest went into the stands, fans came onto the floor, and O’Neal knocked a fan out that came on the floor.
It was an ugly mark on the NBA, and then-commissioner David Stern came down with the heaviest fines and suspensions in league history.
It was almost 20 years ago and the event has been litigated to death. But people have long memories, and maybe there are people within the organization who are still holding that incident against O’Neal.