or the right price, you can get a ticket for any seat at a Pacers home game … except for a group of seats in Section 101. That’s my fan section, which I call Turner’s Block. (It’s a pun, get it?)
And here’s the deal: You can’t buy those seats.
The fans in Turner’s Block don’t pay for their seats … well, not with cash.
They have to try out to get in.
And people do actually try out. Like, a lot of people. This year’s tryouts went down a few days ago. It’s one of the best days I have each year, and ultimately it reinforced something I’ve known for awhile: Indiana Pacers fans have absolutely, positively no chill.
And that’s what makes them the best.
I know you’ve heard that one before. Of course every player says his fans are the best. But like, I don’t think you get it. These people, man, they’re crazy.
In short, these Hoosiers be wildin’.
In their regular day-to-day? Completely normal and lovely people. Honestly, I have never had a bad day walking around Indianapolis, just interacting with fans. Every experience is positive. The people who recognize me are always respectful and kind. The people who don’t recognize me are respectful and kind, too – that’s just how it is in Indy. (Shout out to the 12-year-old kid I met at the Lego Store in Indy last year who gave me incredible tips about Legos … I don’t think he knew I was a Pacer. He just had mad Lego knowledge that the world needed to know.)
But then you get people in Indiana around a basketball court, throw some blue and gold on them? A switch flips. They’re freaks, man. Like, in the best possible way. Basketball maniacs. Trust me, I got the receipts.
Here’s how the tryouts work: People show up and get 20 seconds on stage to do something that will impress me, something that will prove their fandom. And man, people choose to use that time in … all kinds of ways.
One fan, I swear to God, showed up in a full-on wedding dress. She actually came up on stage, got down on one knee, presented me with a cherry ring pop and proposed to be in my fan section.
You already know the answer, right?
Baby, I do.
Welcome to The Block, Wedding Dress Lady.
One guy came up on stage and did a cover of “Black & Yellow,” the Wiz Khalifa song, except he replaced the chorus with “Blue & Yellow” — and he wrote all new lyrics to make it about the Pacers, both current and historical. I think he dropped a Rik Smits line. It was very detailed. He absolutely killed it. Welcome to The Block, bro.
I’m pretty sure that the same guy created a homemade music video for the song. It doesn’t have nearly enough views IMO. Can we change that?
(Don’t sue him, Wiz.)
I should be clear, though: Not everyone made the cut.
It’s a cutthroat tryout, you know what I mean? And some fans, if I’m being real, made some strategic miscalculations. Like the guy who responded “Victor Oladipo” when we asked who the most talented player on the Pacers was.
SMH. SMH. SMDH.
Look, Vic is my favorite Pacer, too … but come on. Know your audience. It’s the Myles Turner fan section. Like, just lie or something. That was intended to be an easy question.
We had one guy who prepared a whole act but got some serious stage fright and wasn’t able to do it. Shout out to that dude, I’ll be on the lookout for you next year. You got this.
People get creative. Another guy came out with 20 T-shirts on and managed to take all of them off within 20 seconds while running around in circles screaming. Like I’m saying, receipts. Tell me that man’s not an athlete. You can’t. You won’t. Respect that hustle. NO CHILL. You know he made the squad. Welcome, T-Shirt Man.
We had men, women, children — really every type of person you can imagine. Even got an Elvis impersonator, which really makes me feel like Turner’s Block has arrived.
I guess the point I’m making is that all of these people — each and every one down to their very core — had absolutely no chill. And that’s the thing: When it comes to basketball, the state of Indiana has no chill. They’re absolutely crazy about this sport. They’re crazy about this team. And I genuinely love them for that.
Because I feel the exact same way.
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports
The first guy I met with after joining the Pacers in 2015 was our trainer Josh Corbiel.
Josh’s personality reminds me of that guy on Two and Half Men. What’s the guy’s name? The one who’s not Charlie Sheen. Or the kid. The guy who plays the other man. That guy. That’s what Josh is like.
Right after I was drafted, I was definitely kind of nervous about moving to a new place. The draft process had come with a ton of scrutiny that I wasn’t expecting. Like teams at the combine literally asked me to walk in a straight line to prove … something?
And it was the Pacers who ended up drafting me … so I guess I passed?
Anyhow, what I remember most about that first interaction with Josh was that he was super direct. No real pleasantries. He said, “I heard you have some tendonitis in your left knee, so we’re going to get to work on that.” Then minutes after meeting him, he was digging his hands into my quad. It hurt so bad I just about jumped off the table. I know other places might just hand you a stim machine and an ice pack. Not Indiana. Josh worked on me and he worked on me until it no longer hurt.
When I signed my extension with the Pacers a couple of days ago, I thought about how thankful I am to the people in this organization, like Josh, who have done so many things behind the scenes to help me. I’m really excited to be staying in Indy for a lot reasons, but one of the biggest is that this place is a community. It’s a place where relationships matter, and where I know I can grow.
There’s a lot of time to kill in the trainer’s room so me, Josh and Carl Eaton — who also works with the team — talk about plenty of stuff. One of the things we all feel pretty passionately about is Star Wars.
For the most part, we’re in agreement on the franchise. The only really big Star Wars disagreement we’ve ever gotten in was over Solo. Carl and I liked it. Josh thought it was corny and that it wasn’t faithful to the tone of the other movies in the franchise. He’s wrong, but that’s O.K. We’re past that.
Anyway, when you’re a big enough fan of Star Wars, you start seeing parallels between the characters in the movies and the people you interact with in real life.
An example: My first two years in Indy, Big Al Jefferson was my Yoda.
He pretty much only spoke in one-liners that had some kind of wisdom attached. They just rolled off his tongue, and they seemed to come out of nowhere … yet always arrived right on time. For example, if we were down by a bunch of points and trying to come back, he’d say something like, “There’s always one thing about that fast horse; he’ll slow down eventually.” Or if another team’s bench player made a nice move, he’d say something like, “Well, a garbage can gets a steak every now and then.”
You know, reverse the phrasing a bit and that’s basically Yoda.
Strong with Big Al, the force is.
And Nate, our coach? He’s like Mace Windu, no nonsense, always about taking care of business. Just a baaaad man.
Myself? I’d like to think I’m like Obi Wan in his prime years. Like Episodes I to III Obi Wan, when he was super legit.
And as far as Vic goes, well, that’s more challenging. Vic isn’t … like anyone else. He really takes on different personas at different times. Because Vic away from the floor is always either joking or singing. Those are basically his two modes. He’s a pretty good singer too. He comes to the locker room with a ton of range in terms of what he’ll sing on any given day. Sometimes it’s gospel, sometimes R&B, and when you aren’t paying attention he might hit you with some country.
But on the floor, whole different ball game. As soon as the ball tips he has that Pacer mentality. Absolutely no chill. He’s a freak of nature out there with his intensity and aggression. If we aren’t bringing it on a particular night, he’ll be in our faces shouting “What are we gonna do? What the f*** are we gonna do? Who the f*** are we going to be?” Just thinking about that kind of gets me hyped. But there are so many other ways he distinguishes himself as a leader behind the scenes.
Like I remember early last year, I played one game where just about nothing went right. It was my first game back after my concussion and my coordination was off. I had no feel for the game. I was pretty down, but I didn’t make a big display of it. Nothing anyone would notice.
After the game, Vic did something I didn’t expect. Something really cool. He came to my house to try to lift me up. He told me not to let one bad game get to me. He said the team needed me. That really meant a lot to me. He’s just a really good guy who I feel really honored to compete with. I’ll roll with him into any battle.
So maybe he’s like Han? Let’s go with Han.
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports
I’m really happy that I get to spend at least four more years here. I say “at least” because, with what we’re building, I hope to be here much longer than that.
Throughout the offseason, I tried to keep contract stuff out of my head. I’m lucky to have a team of people who take care of that stuff for me. I trusted them to find a way for me to stay here.
It actually wasn’t until the other day, after I signed my extension, that all of this really hit. When my parents and I got back to my apartment after the signing, we all sat together and broke down in tears of joy. They worked so hard to put me in a position to realize my dreams. Growing up we weren’t broke, but we were damn near broke. My dad took on night shifts and my mom worked her way up the corporate ladder at a hotel chain so that I would be able to attend the right tournaments and be on the right teams to get the exposure I needed to play in college. But ultimately, it wasn’t just how they supported me financially, but also the way they showed me how to work. The example they set for me and my sister is something that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.
I’m also thankful to Frank Vogel, my first coach. My rookie year got off to a rough start. There was a lot of skepticism surrounding the decision to draft me, and then when I broke my thumb early on, I think people around the league were already prepared to write me off as a bust. But for some reason Coach saw something in me. I’ll never forget when got back from a road game and I was positive I was gonna get sent down to the G League. I actually had my bags packed, ready to go to Fort Wayne. Coach Vogel came up to me and said, “Hey kid, you ready?” Apparently we’d had a couple of injuries — Coach didn’t only want me to stay on the roster, he wanted to give me more playing time. I said something to the extent of “F*** yeah, I’m ready!” And on that road trip, I killed it. I hit my career highs in every category and never looked back.
I wouldn’t be in this position today if it wasn’t for him. There are also all the assistant coaches who never get the credit they deserve. There’s Bill Bayno who has spent so many hours in the gym with me working in the post. He makes me do all the little things right, over and over and over until it’s habit. I get to learn from Popeye Jones, who had a long career in the league and dispenses knowledge to me every day that makes me better. All I want is to become as good at basketball as his son is at hockey.
There’s Dan Burke, our defensive specialist. Dan is as passionate about basketball as anyone I’ve ever met. And he’s mean as hell while he’s coaching you. Like he will give s*** to every player he works with, no matter what their level is. And we all happily (well not always happily, that’s not true) take it because he makes us better. When we’re locking teams up at the end of games, that’s Dan.
And then obviously there’s Coach McMillan. Coach always takes the extra time to watch a lot of film with me. Even during the draft process, I vibed with him really well. He was one of the coaches I wanted to play for, and I’m really grateful that I get to.
But more than anything else, the reason I’m writing this is because I want to give a shout out to the fans. In my three years here, this place already feels like home. And I’m so damn excited to able to keep the core of this team intact. Yeah, what we did last year during that series with Cleveland was crazy. During those home games it felt like y’all were on the floor with us. I was so proud to represent each and every one of you. But that was only a taste of what we can do. We have much bigger ambitions. I don’t need to tell you that we need you. You know the drill at this point.
But for everyone who isn’t repping the Pacers right now? People who are going to come around later on, once we take this thing to another level?
I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to wait in line.
Maybe try again next season.
We got tryouts.