NBA Rumor: Slick Leonard Death

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“We don’t want it to be funereal or maudlin,” Mark Boyle said. “He was 88, he lived a great life, and we don’t want to turn this into a tragedy. What we want to say is yes, we’re sad and we’re heartbroken, but this is a celebration of a life well-lived. This man is an icon and he’s touched so many people in his life. And yes, out of the breaks, we’ll probably play several ‘Boom, Baby’s’ and other Slick-isms.’” Yes, Boom, Baby. Pacers of an older generation remember Slick as the hard-driving coach who led the Pacers to three ABA championships and reached the finals five times, who won a franchise-record 529 games and earned a spot — finally — in the Basketball Hall of Fame. But for a younger group, Slick was best known for his exclamatory “Boom, Baby!’” every time a Pacer hit a 3-point basket. Slick was much deeper than any catchphrase — he was a basketball genius — but he forged a connection with a new generation with his excitable trademark. In fact, Reggie Miller’s production company is named Boom Baby Productions.

Nobody is quite sure where Boom, Baby came from; it’s a bit like the etymology of the term “Hoosier.” One time, Boyle asked Slick about it and Slick wasn’t quite sure, but there were two options that he could recall as possibilities. “This is what he told me,” Boyle said. “It was a playoff game (when he was coaching) and Billy Keller hit a shot. Nobody remembers when or against whom, but Billy hit the shot and as they were running off the floor, Slick yelled ‘Boom, Baby!’ “Now, the second version I’ve heard is that he was drawing up the play and said, ‘Billy, then you’ll get the ball, shoot it, then Boom, baby! and we’re out of here.’

NBA Communications: The NBA mourns the passing of Hall of Famer Bobby “Slick” Leonard, a beloved member of the Indiana Pacers organization for more than 50 years. A hard-nosed player, legendary coach and insightful broadcaster, Bobby had a profound impact on the game. Condolences to his loved ones.

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May 8, 2021 | 8:15 pm EDT Update
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