Remembering Jeff Foster’s Pacers Career

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Jeff Foster was one of the most scrappy players in Indiana Pacers franchise history.

He is also one of the most fiery big men to ever wear blue and gold.

Hall of Fame Pacers shooting guard Reggie Miller gave his due – which is why he dubbed Foster “The Feisty One”.

Unfortunately, Foster hasn’t been recognized enough since hanging up his sneakers after the 2011-12 NBA campaign.

It was time for that to change – Foster was one of the reasons Indy was a perennial title contender in the years leading up to the infamous “Malice at the Palace” fiasco.

Jeff Foster rose from obscurity during his unsung NBA career

The Pacers acquired Foster via a trade to the Golden State Warriors for fellow rookie Vonteego Cummings and a future first-rounder in 1999.

Cummings never made it — he only played three seasons in the NBA before strutting overseas.

Foster’s story was entirely different.

Some 13 years later, when Foster left at sunset, it was clear that Pacers general manager Donnie Walsh and co. cheated the warriors.

They definitely did their homework on Foster.

No one in Indianapolis knew who he was after signing with the Pacers in 1999.

He wasn’t a marquee rookie who belonged to the same stratosphere as Elton Brand or Lamar Odom.

Nevertheless, he proved that he belonged in the Association.

Foster’s arrival coincided with a major upheaval in the Pacers’ frontcourt.

He was a rookie during Indy’s historic run to the NBA Finals in 2000.

He mostly languished on Larry Bird’s bench that year while learning the ropes of the professional game.

Don’t forget that Rik Smits, “The Dunking Dutchman”, retired after the 1999-00 NBA season due to persistent foot problems.

Indiana then traded big man Dale Davis to the Portland Trail Blazers for youngster Jermaine O’Neal in the offseason.

In no time, Foster and O’Neal became a formidable frontline tandem for Pacers head coaches Isiah Thomas and Rick Carlisle over the next few years.

O’Neal had a vast offensive repertoire at the low post – he could shoot mid-range jumpers and dunk ferociously with both hands.

JO was also a master shot blocker.

Foster complemented O’Neal’s game perfectly – the former specialized in comebacks, waste points, rebounds and nonstop hustle from the start of the game.

Oddly enough, the way they complemented each other was strikingly similar to how Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner complemented each other over a decade later.

It’s a clear indication of how Indy management builds its teams – the Pacers need to act as a cohesive unit at both ends of the field.

As for Foster, his career stats of 4.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game certainly aren’t mind-blowing.

Don’t let them fool you – he was the perfect example of a player whose impact went beyond the stat sheet.

To put it the same way, he went above and beyond the call of duty for the Bleu et Or.

Foster could score 14 points and grab 20 rebounds any night.

He could also produce similar numbers against guys like Ben Wallace of the Detroit Pistons, which is no small feat.

If there was a stat to keep loose balls alive, Foster would have been the Pacers’ all-time franchise leader.

Foster’s nose for the ball was second to none.

With him, the Pacers got valuable second chances every time they nearly missed a possession.

Foster played 13 seasons in the NBA – his longevity and durability were indicative of his value to Indiana.

He remains one of the best unheralded big men in Pacers NBA franchise history.

Sports Grp2

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