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Basketball legend Bobby 'Slick' Leonard dead at 88

Leonard was a beloved and former Indiana University basketball player, NBA player and coach and long-time Pacers announcer.

INDIANAPOLIS — Basketball legend Bobby "Slick" Leonard passed away at the age of 88, 13News confirmed. 

Leonard was a beloved and former Indiana University basketball player, NBA player and coach and long-time Pacers announcer. His famous "Boom Baby" is beloved by fans of all generations. 

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Leonard had recently survived an abdominal aortic aneurysm and spoke to 13News Anchor Anne Marie Tiernon about trying to raise awareness for others. 

Bobby and Nancy Leonard would have celebrated 67 years of marriage this summer.

"The blessing in my life was to go to Indiana University my freshman year and run into this little gal," Leonard said in a recent interview with 13News. "This June 15, we will be married for 67 years. She means everything to me."  

Leonard was born July 17, 1932 in Terre Haute. He grew up to play basketball at Indiana University where he hit a game-winning free throw to win the 1953 NCAA championship. 

He played seven years in the pros with the Lakers and in Chicago. He then began coaching and made his way back to Indiana to coach the Pacers for 12 years. He even led the team to three ABA championships.

Leonard returned to the Pacers in 1985 as a commentator and stayed with with the team until his passing.

Bobby "Slick" Leonard was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.

Pacers owners Herb Simon, Steve Simon, and the Simon Family released a statement about his passing.

"Pacers fans will remember Bobby ‘Slick’ Leonard as the spirit of our franchise. 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. 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.” 

NBA legend Larry Bird: 

"To me, Slick was a real Hoosier, he loved the State and everyone that lives there. He was a great mentor to me and a friend that everyone should have. Slick will be greatly missed and remembered with respect and admiration forever. My family and I send our sincere condolences to Nancy and the Leonard family." 

Indiana Pacers legend Reggie Miller: 

"This one hurts Pacers Nation... So very saddened by the loss of a beloved human being in Bobby ‘Slick’ Leonard. We all know how great a Coach you were in guiding the ABA Pacers to 3 Championships, but you were a much better friend. I will cherish every single one of our conversations and pass them along to my kids. Thinking of Nancy and the Leonard Family during this time."

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb:

“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.”

Purdue University president and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels: 

“When someone says Hoosier, Bob Leonard‘s face comes to mind immediately. He represented so much of what we treasure about the values and sunny disposition of this state. He was a great friend and boy, will I miss him.”

Current Lakers and former Pacers coach Frank Vogel:

“It’s just a sad day for me and anybody that’s associated with the state of Indiana basketball and Indiana Pacers. Slick really took me under his wing as a young coach when I took over with the Pacers.” 

Tony East, host of Locked on Pacers podcast:

“It’s almost hard to properly state how much he has meant to the city, to the state and to basketball in a state that is known for basketball.”