INDIANAPOLIS – There was a rare event Monday afternoon at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, one that’s only happened a couple dozen times in NBA history.
Jeff Foster, who played his entire 13-year career with the Indiana Pacers, officially retired. It was a move that was announced last week after he learned that he’d need back surgery.
Only 24 players in NBA history have played their entire career with one team and lasted 13 years. Most of them are in the Hall of Fame. Foster’s current peers in that category -- Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki -- will be going to Springfield.
So was the man who sat next to him as he said farewell at a news conference, Pacers president Larry Bird, who spent 13 years with the Boston Celtics before having his career cut short with back injuries.
“Playing for one organization is great, it’s something he’ll remember for the rest of his life,” Bird said.
“I was able to do the same thing and I feel very honored to be able to do that. I know what he was going through, it’s just tough. But he made the right decision. If he had continued to play he’s going to end up like me and they aren’t going to be able to fix [him].”
Foster will not be a Hall of Famer, he was a rugged 6-foot-11 center out of Texas State who lasted this long because he was a good rebounder and wasn’t afraid to battle inside. Of the 764 games he played, he came off the bench in 419 of them. Over the last three years he was debilitated by back issues and only played in 11 games this year. His best season was in 2004-05 when he averaged nine points and seven rebounds.
The highlight of his career, he said, was his rookie year when he went to the Finals. He played with the two other Pacers who have also played more than 10 years with the team: Reggie Miller and Rik Smits.
“I fought with the decision at the beginning of the year whether to end on last year’s note or come back,” Foster said. “I need to get fixed what’s wrong ... hopefully there are no problems in the long term.”