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Vintage NBA: Indiana Pacers' Vern Fleming Was the Epitome of 'Unselfish Warrior'

Vern Fleming played in 12 seasons, 11 with the Indiana Pacers.
Vern Fleming played in 12 seasons, 11 with the Indiana Pacers.Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images
Poch de la RosaContributor IIIJanuary 16, 2017

Anybody remember Vern Fleming? The slender, wiry point guard who mainly played out of position for the Indiana Pacers in the mid-80s to mid-90s. The same guy who was dubbed "Mr. Pacer" in his heyday.

Yes, that Vern Fleming.

He was drafted in the first round of the 1984 draft with the 18th pick overall out of the University of Georgia. He played 12 seasons in the NBA from 1984 to 1996. Of those 12, 11 were with the Pacers.

Here are some of his career highlights:

  • Won a gold medal as a member of the 1984 U.S. basketball Olympic team alongside Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin
  • Ranks in the top 10 for the Pacers in seasons, games, minutes, field goals made and attempted, field-goal percentage, free throws made and attempted, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, total rebounds, assists steals and points. 
  • Averaged 11.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists in his NBA career. 
  • Did not have a propensity to commit useless fouls; he averaged only 2.2 in 12 seasons. 
  • His first coaching job was when he joined Isiah Thomas' staff as an assistant with the Pacers in the 2000-01 season.

On top of it all, it's nearly impossible to imagine a player going through 12 seasons without ever getting a technical foul. Not one solitary technical.

Fleming somehow pulled it off. As difficult as that may seem, Fleming still holds the distinction of playing the most number of professional basketball games without a technical foul.

Reggie Miller mentioned in his 1995 book I Love Being The Enemy that he almost chokes up whenever he remembers Fleming playing in front of a crowd of two or three thousand in the old Market Square Arena. 

Remember, Fleming was already in his fourth season when Miller was a rookie back in 1987. The Pacers were the laughingstock of the NBA when Vern started out. They suffered through 22- and 26-win campaigns during his first two seasons.  

In addition, he played out of position. Dating back to his college days at the University of Georgia, he's a natural shooting guard. Instead, he played point guard for the most part when he turned pro. 

Many players in his situation would have demanded a trade. Fleming didn't. Instead, he endured and patiently waited for the Pacers to build a contender.

He eventually enjoyed stints in the Eastern Conference finals in 1994 and 1995, witnessing a turnaround many did not believe possible.

Fleming may not have been a spectacular player, but he was always a consummate professional. 

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