Indiana basketball great George McGinnis passes away at 73

Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana basketball great George McGinnis passed away at the age of 73. 

McGinnis has been in the hospital since suffering a cardiac arrest at his home last week, as reported by ESPN.

Don Fischer announced on the radio that McGinnis was in serious condition this past Saturday. Fisher reported that McGinnis texted head coach Mike Woodson after the Hoosiers' road win against Michigan. 

McGinnis embodied what it meant to be a Hoosier and succeeded at all three levels of basketball in the state. 

He began his legacy at George Washington Community High School in Indianapolis. As a senior in 1969, McGinnis led his squad to a 31-0 season and eventual HSAA state championship. This marked the third team in Indiana high school basketball history to complete an undefeated season. McGinnis averaged 32.5 points a game during this stretch and was eventually named the 1969 Indiana Mr. Basketball. 

McGinnis was enrolled at Indiana University the following year but didn’t play due to the freshman eligibility rules at the time. He finally hit the court as a sophomore during the 1970-71 season. 

McGinnis didn’t waste any time once he donned the cream and crimson. In just his third game with the team, he amassed a spectacular 38 points and 20 rebounds in an overtime loss to the Kentucky Wildcats. He continued his dominance for the rest of his sole season with the Hoosiers, averaging 30.0 points and 14.7 rebounds across 24 games. He played 34.6 minutes per game and shot 46.0% from the field. Despite the Hoosiers’ 17-7 record (9-5 in the Big Ten) not being enough to reach the postseason, McGinnis finished with plenty of accolades. He became the first sophomore to lead the Big Ten in scoring and rebounding, earning a spot on the 1970-71 All-Big Ten first team. 

McGinnis continued to play basketball in Indiana as he began his professional career with the Pacers. At the time, the Pacers had not yet joined the NBA and were a member of the American Basketball Association. He immediately contributed at the next level, becoming a vital part of the Pacer’s run to a 1972 ABA championship. The following season, the Pacers repeated as champions, with McGinnis being named the 1973 ABA Playoffs MVP. 

"“When I came into the ABA, I was like a god. I felt there was no one who was ever going to stop me, that I was going to be a dominant force every time I took the court. That’s how supreme I felt and that’s how supreme I played.”"

George McGinnis

After two years in the ABA, McGinnis was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers as the 22nd overall pick in the second round of the 1973 NBA draft. ​​The Sixers retained McGinnis’ draft rights, but he decided to stay in the ABA and signed a two-year contract extension with the Pacers. His best campaign in Indiana came in 1975, as McGinnis scored a career-high 29.8 points per game and was named the ABA MVP.  

In 1975, McGinnis finally made his way up to the NBA as he negotiated a six‐year, $2.4 million contract with the Knicks, who were eager for a star. However, the 76ers still held McGinnis’s draft rights and were motivated to get the ABA phenom to Philadelphia. Sixers owner Irv Kosloff accused New York of violating the NBA Constitution and forced the league to investigate the case. After review, Commissioner Larry O’Brien determined that the Knicks’ signing of McGinnis violated the league’s constitution and disapproved the contract. This allowed Philadelphia to sign McGinnis to a six‐year, $3.2 million contract in mid-July 1975. 

Continuing his success in the City of Brotherly Love, McGinnis averaged over 20 points per game in all three seasons with the Sixers. In 1977, the duo of George McGinnis and Julius “Dr. J” Erving helped lead Philadelphia to the NBA finals, in which they lost in six games to the Portland Trail Blazers. McGinnis was an NBA All-Star in two of his three seasons with the 76ers. 

McGinnis headed west in 1978 as he was traded to the Denver Nuggets. After not being selected as an NBA All-Star in his final season with Philadelphia, he was again given the honor in his first season in the Mile High City. Midway through his second year in Denver, McGinnis’ was traded back to the Indiana Pacers, now part of the National Basketball Association. Concluding his career with the Pacers, his basketball journey came full circle as he retired in the state where he had left such an indelible mark.

McGinnis’ dominant 11-year ABA/NBA career earned him the prestigious honor of induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017. In addition, he became one of only four Indiana Pacers to have his number retired and hung in the rafters. 

George McGinnis leaves behind an irreplaceable impact on Indiana basketball. His dedication and passion for the game allowed him to become a role model for many aspiring players across the state. He will be remembered as one of the greatest Hoosiers to ever take the court.

His burial will be private, but a celebration of life will take place in Gainbridge Fieldhouse after the new year, per the Indiana Pacers.