Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Indiana Pacers logo

Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

Indiana Pacers vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Rapper-turned-actor-turned-rapper Busta Rhymes showcases his versatility on his 2001 platinum album, Genesis. When he's not politely asking someone to Pass the Courvoisier (twice), yelling about how loud the music is in his truck, or threatening to Break Ya Neck, he's apparently providing a beginner's guide to the sport of basketball.

Bankers Life Fieldhouse Delaware St entrance
Sorry Doug. You're only good enough to be displayed at the rear entrance.

When your song contains such poetry as: "Bounce, bounce, bounce ni... (woah, you thought I was just going to casually drop an n-bomb right there? Think again. I'm far too scared to do that). My midwest n*****! (bounce). Now let me see ya throw it. Come on bounce, bounce," then it must surely be about the basic fundamentals of basketball, right? After all, he even mentions the midwest, and this is where they grow basketball, apparently.

Now, I'm white and grew up in a middle class suburb in South East England, which means I'm neither qualified to understand just what Bounce (Let Me See Ya Throw It) is actually about, or what it's like to grow up surrounded by the sport of basketball.

Inside the main atrium at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Sports arena or train station? You decide.

For starters, I didn't spend much time out on the streets in my youth. When you're afraid of walking to school by yourself in an area where the biggest risk to your life was not returning your library books on time, then you're probably not the sort of person who is going to spend time hanging around outside after dark, are you?

If anything, since the popular teen punishment of being grounded would have proved to be a thoroughly pointless endeavour, my parents would often have to threaten to send me outside if I misbehaved. So yeah, I have no concept of what on earth "popping the collar holla you need to folla the scholar (hey yo!)" or "keeping it gully" mean in the slightest.

The Bankers Life Fieldhouse atrium leading into the arena itself
The steps leading into the arena where it's encouraging to see laser pens casually lumped in the same class as weapons.

As I've said before, basketball is considerably more than just a pastime in Indiana. It's a major part of life. You'll see hoops on the driveways of most houses (the ones not surrounded by chain-link fences) and their high school gymnasiums are amongst the biggest in the country. People are born with an intense love of the game programmed into them. Indiana has Hoosier Hysteria. We have Berkshire Befuddlement.

After all, we're a nation that's known to love playing and watching sports that take up to five days to reach absolutely no conclusion. So the very concept of a sport which banishes the threat of a scoreless draw inside the opening 25 seconds is a frightening one to us miserable bunch of gits.

Victor Oladipo stands at centre court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
A Thingamajig (clutching a ludicrously large bottle of water) gets the home crowd pumped up before the game.

Young Hoosiers are practically plucked from the womb already clutching an orange ball, and parents eagerly await capturing their child's first alley-oop on camera rather than their first steps. British children, by comparison treat the squeaky wooden floors of the basketball court with suspicion.

Which is a little strange considering the sport is the second-most popular sport in the United Kingdom for teenagers in disadvantaged urban areas, presumably because it only requires a ball inflated enough to allow you to bounce it, an even surface, and a bucket to play. But in spite of all that, it remains criminally underfunded in the United Kingdom.

Tip off between the Pacers and 76ers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
The large screen allows you to watch the game on TV instead of looking a few feet further down.

The powers at be decided rather than investing in a sport that literally anyone can pick up and play, since we can't win medals at it (no shit) it's better to just keep plunging all the money into rowing so that middle class, white people can inflate our Olympic medal tally every four years instead. Those in disadvantaged urban areas aren't going to just hop in a boat and start rowing anytime soon, are they? Not everyone gets to grow up in luxury with a dry ski slope just around the corner.

I think back to all the hours wasted at school, being forced to play rugby in those cold, winter months. And I'm not talking about something that could have been fun, like touch rugby. This was full contact (because head injuries didn't exist at the start of the millennium) played by children engaged in a nuclear arms race through puberty, providing the perfect opportunity for those with voices at least three octaves lower to knock the stuffing out of their smaller, hairless brethren.

A look towards one of the suites at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Suite dreams (are made of this).

It was an experience so enjoyable that led me to channel my inner Chris Borland and decided taking German instead would be infinitely more preferable than ever having to step foot on a rugby pitch again. What benefit was there from loitering around, freezing my little nuts off and actively avoiding someone passing the ball to me? I get that kids should probably spend some time outside every once in a while, but come on.

Physical education might have been slightly more enjoyable, and saved me from two whole years of Mr. Lambourn (although it has armed with enough permanent skills to allow me to confidently order two beers in Germany and not a lot else), had we been able to spend that time inside getting the opportunity to play a simpler sport like basketball.

Racing babies at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
The legalisation of sports betting in Indiana provides new and exciting opportunities for a wager.

I wouldn't necessarily have been any good at it, since the few times we did get to play I displayed so much raw power and natural talent that even to this day I am unable to reach the basket from the free throw line (and I look ridiculous in a tank top), but it would certainly have been preferable to having my face pressed into the sweaty armpit of someone much bigger and stronger than me and being forced to understand the point of a scrum.

Perhaps there's just something about throwing a ball into a circle that brings out the snob in people, as if it's any different from kicking a ball into a rectangle. Is it the high scoring (just how Americans overlook football for being too low scoring) or is it just because we didn't invent it?

The Indiana Pacers ABA Championship trophies on display at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
The trophy cabinet showcases successes from the era when the Pacers would regularly line up against teams like Jackie Moon's Flint Tropics.

My dad's irritatingly narrow minded and misinformed dismissal of the sport as just "bouncy bouncy score", encapsulates the general British apathy to the sport better than anyone. Repeating this point to a Hoosier (which he has done, repeatedly) is just as insulting as dipping a pork chop in wine and eating it in front of a devout Muslim, and you wouldn't do that, would you, dad? Of course, nobody would do this because a person who dips pork directly in a glass of wine like some kind of meaty fondue is a clearly some kind of maniac.

The British Basketball League (BBL) has been trundling along quite happily for many years now, so it's not like there aren't fans or opportunities for people playing the game in the UK to make it professionally. Like its North American cousin ice hockey, it went through its boom period in the nineties (when everyone became Chicago Bulls fans), only to disappear in profile almost as quickly in the noughties.

The Pacers Team Store at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Fans getting a head's start on the New Year sales or doing some incredibly late Christmas shopping.

It's remained inexplicably popular in Leicester and Newcastle since, but not so much in London where you'd think people might actually care given the vast concrete jungles and how they manage to turn out in their many thousands for the NBA London Game once a year. If it's good enough for Nick Nurse, then it should be good enough for us too. Why do the Germans, for example, love and attend their domestic American sports, but ours remain a tiny niche?

Maybe it's just so firmly rooted in American culture that anything we do seems like a cheap imitation (it is). People seem perfectly happy going to watch a terrible standard of football (or maybe that's just me), but turn their noses up at something different.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway themed area inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse
The concourses are like an Indiana themed amusement park, without the rides.

Of course, watching an NBA game in a palatial arena like Bankers Life Fieldhouse is always going to be more enjoyable than sitting on bleachers in a leisure centre watching players constantly miss threes. But for some people, that might be the only chance they'll get to see the sport played in person.

Not me, though. This was my fourth Pacers game, and fourth Pacers win. Bankers Life Fieldhouse is a spectacular venue. The hallways of the arena are covered a multitude of displays that pay tribute to Indiana's rich basketball history to the extent that you may be forgiven for thinking you've stumbled into an actual museum. There are no bad seats in the house and the unnecessarily large video screen is as distracting as it is helpful.

Exterior of Bankers Life Fieldhouse
The police always get the best parking spots.

This time I watched them (from my vantage point so far up in the heavens that you constantly have to remain alert for orbiting satellites) crush a Sixers team without one of their stars, Joel Embiid. Fortunately their other one was playing, and considering just how scared Ben Simmons seems to be to shoot, perhaps Busta Rhymes was rapping about him. Come on, let me see ya throw it, Ben. Just once? No? Okay then.

Useless information about Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Address: 125 South Pennsylvania Street, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46204
Capacity: 18,500
Pitch Type: Squeaky wood
Ticket Price: $46 (Balcony)
Program: Free, 80 pages
Cheapest Pint: $9.50

Indiana Pacers ticket from the 2019/20 season

Indiana Pacers 2019/20 season program