(May 22, 1942-Mar. 4, 1997). Born into poverty in Brooklyn, New York, Brown gained fame at Wingate HIgh School, outdueling Connie Hawkins at Madison Square Garden in what many call the greatest prep basketball showdown in New York City history. He starred as a freshman at Dayton University in 1960, but trouble struck when he was implicated in a scandal involving notorious gambler Jack Molinas. Molinas had attempted to get Brown, while in high school, to introduce him to college players who would fix games for gamblers’ benefit.

Neither Brown nor any of the players he allegedly introduced to Molinas were ever found to have fixed a game, and he was never charged with a crime. Nevertheless, Brown was forced to leave college, and the National Basketball Association (NBA) blacklisted him.

Brown subsequently worked at a General Motors plant in Dayton for several years and continued to play basketball in Dayton’s amateur leagues. The controversy had seemingly ended his career until the Indiana Pacers of the newly founded American Basketball Association (ABA, 1967) made him one their first players on the advice of NBA star Oscar Robertson, who grew up in Indianapolis.

Known for his one-on-one skills and brilliance under pressure, Brown played eight seasons with the Pacers and helped them to championships in 1970, 1972, and 1973. In the final three games of the 1970 championship series, he scored 53, 39, and 45 points. He retired in 1975 as the ABA’s career leader in playoff games played, playoff victories, playoff points, championship-series games played, and championship-series victories. In 1969 he sued the NBA for banning him. Four years later the NBA settled with Brown, paying him approximately $420,000. NBA officials also stated that he was now welcome in the league. Brown, however, chose to stay with the Pacers.

In November 1971, he was elected to the Indianapolis City-County Council as a Republican at large. He served as a councilman between 1972 and 1976.

Brown died of colon cancer at age 54. His funeral services were held at Market Square Arena. He was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013. In the documentary Undefeated: The Roger Brown Story, Reggie Miller, also a Hall of Fame player with the Indiana Pacers, called Brown “the greatest Pacer of all-time,” and NBA career-points-leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and many other luminaries have said that, but for unfairly losing so much time to the scandal, “the Rajah” would be known as one of the greatest basketball players in history.

Revised November 2023

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