Bobby “Slick” Leonard, the colorful player, coach, broadcaster and inventor of the term “Boom Baby,” has died at the age of 88. In a statement, Pacers Sports and Entertainment Owners Herb Simon, Steve Simon and the Simon family called Leonard “the spirit of our franchise.”
Leonard was born in 1932 in Terre Haute and played for legendary Coach Howard Sharpe at Gertsmeyer High School. He would go on to star at Indiana University as a two-time All-American and captain of the 1953 NCAA national championship team.
After a seven-year professional career, mostly with the Minneapolis and later Los Angeles Lakers, Leonard went on to a career in coaching, highlighted by more than a decade as head coach of the Indiana Pacers. The fiery Leonard was a fan favorite, who led the Pacers to three American Basketball Association championships before the ABA merged with the National Basketball Association.
“With a charisma, intensity, and wit to match his nickname, Slick made us champions. He was our biggest fan and our most loving critic, and he personified Pacers basketball for generations of Hoosier families,” the Simon family said. “Most importantly, though, Slick and Nancy are our family, and his passing leaves an unfillable void in the hearts of everyone associated with this organization. We keep the entire Leonard family in our prayers, and we recognize and honor Slick for what he meant to our state both on and off the court.”
Leonard’s love of basketball, Indiana and his colorful personality were a perfect fit for a broadcasting career with the Pacers that spanned nearly three decades.
Governor Eric Holcomb issued the following statement Tuesday:
“Slick Leonard is an Indiana icon. He was the embodiment of basketball with his wide-ranging career starting with his days as a high school player in Terre Haute, going on to Indiana University to win a college national championship, and then his career with the NBA as a player, coach, broadcaster, and savior of the Indiana Pacers. His presence in the arena and in our state will be deeply missed. You can’t find anyone who doesn’t love Slick.”
In 2014, Leonard was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. You can watch his induction speech below: