Jeff Foster was one of the scrappiest players in Indiana Pacers franchise history.
He’s also one of the feistiest big men who ever donned the Blue and Gold.
Hall of Fame Pacers shooting guard Reggie Miller gave credit where it was due – that’s why he nicknamed Foster “The Feisty One.”
Sadly, Foster hasn’t garnered enough recognition since he hung up his sneakers following the 2011-12 NBA campaign.
It’s about time that changes – Foster was one of the reasons why Indy was a perennial title contender in the years leading up to the infamous “Malice at the Palace” fiasco.
Jeff Foster Rose From Obscurity During His Unheralded NBA Career
The Pacers acquired Foster via a trade with the Golden State Warriors for fellow rookie Vonteego Cummings and a future first-rounder in 1999.
Cummings never panned out – he played just three seasons in the NBA before strutting his wares overseas.
Foster’s story was entirely different.
— Hoops Media (@hoops__media) January 16, 2020
Some 13 years later when Foster rode off into the sunset, it was crystal clear Pacers GM Donnie Walsh and co. fleeced the Warriors.
They definitely did their homework on Foster.
Nobody in Indianapolis knew who he was after he signed with the Pacers in 1999.
He wasn’t a big-name rookie who belonged in the same stratosphere as Elton Brand or Lamar Odom.
Nevertheless, he proved he belonged in the Association.
Foster’s arrival coincided with a major shakeup in the Pacers’ frontcourt.
He was a rookie during Indy’s historic run to the NBA Finals in 2000.
He languished mostly on Larry Bird‘s bench that year while learning the ropes of the pro game.
Bear in mind Rik Smits, “The Dunking Dutchman,” retired following the 1999-00 NBA season due to nagging foot issues.
Indiana then traded big man Dale Davis to the Portland Trail Blazers for youngster Jermaine O’Neal that offseason.
Before long, Foster and O’Neal became a formidable frountcourt tandem for Pacers head coaches Isiah Thomas and Rick Carlisle in subsequent years.
O’Neal had a vast offensive repertoire in the low post – he could shoot medium-range jumpers and dunk ferociously with either hand.
J.O. was also a master shot blocker.
Foster complemented O’Neal’s game perfectly – the former specialized in putbacks, garbage points, rebounds, and non-stop hustle from the opening tip-off.
Oddly enough, the way they complemented each other was strikingly similar to the way Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner complemented each other more than a decade later.
It’s a clear indication of how Indy’s management builds its teams – the Pacers must act as a cohesive unit on both ends of the court.
As for Foster, his career stats of 4.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game certainly aren’t mind-blowing by any stretch.
Don’t let them fool you – he was the perfect example of a player whose impact went beyond the stat sheet.
To put it in a similar way, he went above and beyond the call of duty for the Blue and Gold.
Foster could score 14 points and grab 20 rebounds any night.
He also could produce similar numbers against guys such as the Detroit Pistons’ Ben Wallace, which is no mean feat.
6 years ago today, #Pacers center Jeff Foster retired. In his 13 year career with the Pacers, Foster scored 3,747 points, hauled in 5,248 rebounds & played 15,720 minutes
— Alex Golden (@AlexGoldenNBA) March 21, 2018
If there was a stat for keeping loose balls alive, Foster would’ve been the Pacers’ all-time franchise leader hands down.
Foster’s nose for the ball was second to none.
With him around, the Pacers earned valuable second chances whenever they almost muffed a possession.
Foster played 13 seasons in the NBA – his longevity and durability were indicative of his value to Indiana.
He remains one of the best unheralded big men in Pacers NBA franchise history.