Former Indiana basketball star Victor Oladipo is in the midst of his best season as a pro, as he and the No. 5-seeded Indiana Pacers shocked LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. They defeated the Cavs on their home floor, 98-80.
In the game, Oladipo scored a game-high 32 points on 11-for-19 shooting. He also added 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and 1 block. The game marked only the second nationally televised game for the Pacers this season, and they took advantage of it. Behind Oladipo’s solid play all season, the Pacers established themselves as one of the best, and most dangerous, teams in the Eastern Conference this year.
In the wake of the Game 1 victory, Oladipo wrote about his love for Indiana in a piece on the Players’ Tribune. In the article — titled “They’ll Embrace You Like No Other” — the All-Star guard discusses his college days playing at Indiana, being traded to the Pacers in the 2017 NBA offseason and his love for the state.
One of the primary focuses of the article is the trade between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Pacers that sent Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana for Paul George. Oladipo said that he was fired up after reading comments about the trade. Some thought the Pacers didn’t get enough in return for George. Others thought Oladipo was just a “locker room guy.”
Oladipo wrote that after he was traded, he talked to his mother and then talked with Sabonis. Oladipo and Sabonis were drafted by the Orlando Magic in 2013 and 2016, respectively, and were traded together to the Thunder in the 2016 offseason. After one season in Oklahoma City, they were traded to Indiana.
“We’d done this before,” Oladipo wrote. “Doma was in the trade to the Pacers with me, but we’d also been together since pretty much the moment he got drafted by the Magic in 2016. We got traded together to OKC. Now to Indy. So I knew Doma wouldn’t want me to sugarcoat anything, but I had to check in with him — let him know what I was thinking. I texted him what I knew was true.
“I promise, if you win here in Indiana, they’ll embrace you like no other.”
Oladipo also discusses his love for Indiana, both the state and the college, and how much he appreciates the fans.
“Those three years in Bloomington were just — they changed me. Yeah, I became a better basketball player, but it was also the first time I saw an entire community be so passionate about a single thing. About a game we were playing. I learned that interacting — even just taking the time to stop and talk once in a while with the community — can actually change people’s entire outlook on life.”
He mentioned that every time he came to Indiana to play as a visitor, the fans cheered him. Now, he’s playing for Indiana. Now, he’s home.
“I knew that not every trade is the same, just like not every state is the same.
“And I knew this wasn’t just any trade. It was the Pacers. It was Indiana, and I knew Indiana.
“I wasn’t going to just another team. I was coming home.”
In 75 games with the Pacers this season, Oladipo averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and a NBA-leading 2.4 steals per game, all of which are career-highs. He shot 47.7 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from 3-point range (also career-highs).
The Pacers and the Cavaliers will play in Game 2 in the first round of the NBA Playoffs at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
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— Indiana Basketball (@IndianaMBB) April 16, 2018