New pro basketball team takes the court at Hinkle Fieldhouse last month.
If you haven't heard of the Indiana Legends, you're in good company. The Legends are one of eight teams currently competing in the fledgling ABA 2000, the Indianapolis-based reincarnation of the league with the red-white-and-blue ball, the league that spawned the Indiana Pacers, now of the NBA.
Perhaps the biggest challenge has been the timing. The Legends didn't enjoy the kind of promotional build-up that one normally might think would accompany the birth of a new pro sports franchise because the team was born prematurely.
"We thought we were going to have a team in Jacksonville, and that did not happen. The league decided we needed an eighth team, so we ratcheted up the introduction of the Indiana team to this year" instead of 2002, explains Allan Zukerman, Legends CEO and co-owner and the "Z" in the Indianapolis advertising agency MZD.
"We started working on it about the middle of November," Zukerman says. "We really didn't want to announce a team until we really had a team to announce." That explains why a lot of people missed hearing about the launch of the team until the Legends showed up on the court, ready to play, in early January. Short gestation period aside, the team is here, and it already includes one genuine legend. Fans who recall the glory days of the ABA will recognize Billy Keller, an Indiana Pacer from 1966-1977, now coaching the Legends. In the driver's seat as general manager is Matt Ingram, who brings a variety of pro-sports management experience with stints in minor-league baseball and hockey as well as arena football.
"Indiana was always at the front of everyone's mind" when planning the revival of the ABA, Ingram says. "Indiana was the linchpin of the old ABA. How can you bring back the ABA without Indiana?"
Though the inaugural season of ABA 2000 does, indeed, include Indiana, it still is missing stands full of rabid Indiana basketball fans. More than 2,000 showed up for the home opener, but attendance has dwindled enough in subsequent home games to bring the average down to about 1,200, fifth in the eight-team league.
The Legends, therefore, are in the midst of two campaigns: one on the court and one off. On the court things could he better, as the Legends are hovering around the .500 mark. Off the court the Legends are displaying a combination of persistence and patience.
"We have to continue marketing ourselves and projecting the image...