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Roger Brown Residency

About Roger Brown

 

Not only was Roger Brown a champion on the hardwood, he was a winner as a civil servant, businessman and philanthropist.

As the first player signed by the Indiana Pacers of the new American Basketball Association, Brown helped lead the Pacers to three ABA championships. When he closed out his career in 1975, the four-time ABA all-star was 10th on the ABA all-time scoring list and the league's record-holder for points in a playoff game, shooting percentage in a game, consecutive field goals made, career playoff games played, career playoff points, career playoff wins, career finals games played and career finals wins. Visit his Indiana Pacers career gallery here.

Born in 1942 in Brooklyn, New York, Brown started his rise to basketball prominence as a prep hoops legend at George W. Wingate High School, breaking the New York City Public Schools Athletic League career scoring mark.

He went to the University of Dayton where he starred on the freshman squad that qualified for the national American Athletic Union tournament. In 1961, Brown was caught up in a national gambling scandal. He was dismissed from UD and barred from playing basketball in the NCAA and the National Basketball Association for associating with gamblers, although he was never charged with a crime and there was no indication he was involved in fixing games.

Members of the West Dayton community rallied around Brown, helping him through the dark days after he was dismissed from UD. He was taken in by Arlena and Azariah Smith, whom he met when the UD freshman squad played against local AAU teams, including the Inland Manufacturing team for which Azariah Smith was an assistant coach.

The Smiths welcomed Brown into their home, and Azariah helped him land a job at Inland and a spot on the plant's AAU team in the industrial league, and later on the Jones Brothers' Funeral Home team. During the next few years, the Smiths continued to support and nurture Brown through a number of disappointments, including being prevented from playing on the 1964 U.S. Olympic team. At that time, the many AAU teams were on a par with college basketball teams and the Olympics team drew from both.

The Dayton AAU experience was crucially important for Brown, connecting him with first-rate amateur players to keep his skills sharp, introducing him to life-long friends, and helping him to become part of the Dayton community. He stayed in Dayton until 1967 when Cincinnati Royals legend Oscar Robertson suggested that the Pacers should take a look at Brown when they were forming their first team. He was the first player signed as a Pacer and went on to carve out a brilliant career.

Although the NBA ban against Brown was reversed as a result of a 1969 court settlement, his loyalties remained with the ABA's Pacers and Indianapolis.

The PBS documentary "Undefeated: The Roger Brown Story" immortalized his career in 2013, the same year the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame enshrined him with a class that included Gary Payton, Bernard King and Dawn Staley.

The documentary included high acclaim by fellow Naismith hall of famers Robertson, George Gervin, Julius Erving, Reggie Miller and NBA career scoring leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Miller, who with Brown is among five players to have their jerseys retired by the Pacers, called Brown "the best athlete ever to don a Pacers uniform."

After his playing days, Brown remained in Indianapolis where he was an assistant coroner, a member of the Indianapolis city council, a coach with the Pacers and a mentor to Indiana Pacers players.

"That said something about him as a person that he cared about the city, as well as the sports team," William Hudnut, Indianapolis mayor from 1976 to 1991, said in the documentary.

Brown also gave back to the city of Dayton, covering expenses for a foster care program for teens, Youth Engaged for Success.

"Roger also would come in when we had our youth groups and speak to the kids, and he always said to them, 'Your beginning doesn't have to be your end.' No matter what he went through, it doesn't have to define the rest of your life," Youth Engaged for Success Co-Founder Barbara Boatright said in the documentary.

Brown died of liver cancer in 1997 at the age of 54.

Other resources:

The New York Times: Roger Brown, Basketball Star From Brooklyn, Is Dead at 54

The Associated Press: One thousand turn out for funeral for Pacers star Roger Brown

NBA.com: After 50 Seasons, Brown Still in the Conversation for Greatest Pacers Player Ever

Dayton Daily News: Roger Brown finally gets his due

Image, top of page: Blackballed 'Totem' Drawing: Roger "The Rajah" Brown, by James Pate.

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