INDIANAPOLIS — “You might be uncomfortable me,” Bob Netolicky says, laughing as he talks on the phone from his Texas house, striving to downplay this mad tale strategy he’s been called to converse about.
The story is on “Neto,” the heartthrob of the Indiana Pacers, the participant who had guys cussing and ladies swooning, ready outside the Indiana Point out Fairgrounds coliseum to get a glimpse, or much more, of the 6-9 power ahead who owned exotic animals, dressed in outlandish trend and ran the best bar in city exactly where the likes of James Garner hung out.
Sure, Netolicky will concede he dressed fashionably (“All people ABA men did,” he says) and yes, he owned exotic pets, like an ocelot, lioness and a margay. Of course, he owned the now-demolished Indy bar Neto’s, where renowned persons who arrived to town for the Indianapolis 500 or any other large function would drink the evening absent.
But a heartthrob? Swooning females? Sexual intercourse symbol?
“I am not guaranteed I try to remember all that,” Netolicky, 80, claims. “I consider some of this stuff, as time goes by, gets blown out of proportion. I’m not so confident I was a heartthrob. I really don’t genuinely remember women hanging out ready for me.”
But newspaper posts bear in mind. There are hundreds of stories from Netolicky’s 8 yrs with the American Basketball Affiliation Pacers in the late 1960s and early 1970s as the city’s “it-gentleman.” The words and phrases are there in black and white in yellowed sports webpages of the Indianapolis Star.
“He’s bought the sexiest enamel in the ABA.”
“Some folks even have dubbed the 28-year-old bachelor the Joe Namath of the Midwest.“
“Netolicky is a veritable sex symbol to lots of of Indiana’s female lovers.”
Sorry “Neto,” the archives notify the tale. And so Netolicky, reluctantly, agreed to convey to it, also.
Exotic gentleman with unique pets
Netolicky was born in San Francisco in 1942 during Planet War II. His father, a surgeon, labored on a professional medical ship overseas all through the war. His mom was a nurse by trade who turned a continue to be-at-residence mom getting treatment of Netolicky, his sister and his brother.
When the household moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the place Netolicky grew up, basketball wasn’t a thing that eaten his everyday living. In truth, when he was a 5-11 freshman, Netolicky was slice from the basketball workforce and under no circumstances played in high university.
Instead, Netolicky performed at the YMCA, functioning out and battling on the court docket against school guys. When he graduated significant faculty, he sat out a yr and a 50 percent and held playing ball. Ultimately he and a several buddies made a decision to go down to Ellsworth Community School in Iowa Falls to attempt out for the team.
Phrase of what Netolicky did at that tryout distribute to Drake University coach Maury John — word of this large, agile guy who no a person could guard. John referred to as Netolicky’s dad and mom and offered their son a whole experience.
Playing for Drake, Netolicky was an All-American selection and left as Drake’s all-time rebounding chief (717) and fifth all-time major scorer, with 997 factors.
And it was whilst in college that Netolicky’s standing for remaining an unique guy owning unique animals was born.
Initially there was the ocelot. His freshman year at Drake, Netolicky had a pal who owned an exotic pet keep. “Why never you get an ocelot?'” his good friend asked him. “Hell, I did not know,” Netolicky mentioned. So he explained sure.
“He ordered it and it showed up, a tiny kitten, and bingo bango,” Netolicky claimed. He experienced an ocelot named Socrates, a fabulous spotted wild cat.
The margay, a tiny South American cat, came future. “It was like a little leopard about 2 times the measurement of a property cat,” Netolicky claimed. He experienced grown up with domestic animals and cherished them. He liked even far more getting wild animals in his midst.
And so for his next pet, Netolicky went greater, a great deal larger. He turned the happy proprietor of a lioness.
It happened on a whim when his higher education roommate experienced an thought. “We can get a little one lion cub for $100. Want to go 50 %?” he asked Netolicky. It would be just like “Born Totally free,” the 1966 motion picture about a couple who raised Elsa, an orphaned lion cub. “Guaranteed,” Netolicky advised his roommate. “Let’s do it.”
The baby cub arrived and Netolicky named her Julie. “And she ended up obtaining serious, real big,” Netolicky claimed. “A comprehensive-grown African lion, 250 lbs ..”
Just one time, Netolicky experienced Julie at a fraternity get together. “We have been just goofing all around and, all of a unexpected, she’s missing,” he said. The following day he obtained a telephone connect with from the police. A neighbor boy had been mowing the lawn when Julie came walking out from beneath a tree.
“He about had a coronary heart attack,” Netolicky said. The neighbors weren’t lovers of the lioness. Julie and Netolicky had to section approaches.
That was Alright simply because Netolicky experienced professional basketball to enjoy by then. He was the 18th in general choose in the 1967 NBA Draft by the San Diego Rockets, just one variety guiding Phil Jackson. Netolicky never ever played for San Diego, as a substitute signing up for a new league named the ABA and taking part in for Slick Leonard and the Pacers.
His penchant for wild animals promptly caught the notice of the Pacers’ enthusiast foundation and IndyStar wrote about it. “He’s a fellow who by no means is aware of if he is likely to be the host or the entree when he serves dinner for his pets,” wrote athletics editor Bob Collins in his column Nov. 1, 1967.
Netolicky stated by then his huge cats experienced been rehomed and he’d gotten himself a Black lab dog.
But he failed to need exotic pets to stand out in Indianapolis or wherever else. Netolicky’s funky style and speedy way of living experienced persons chatting about much additional than his wild animals. And his play on the court docket promptly won fans around, at the very least most admirers. There were the “cussers,” immediately after all.
‘Most reviewed and stubborn player in ABA’
As a rookie, Netolicky led the Pacers in rebounding and subject target share (.504) and is one particular of only two Pacers in franchise historical past, the other Clark Kellogg, to regular a double-double as a rookie.
But as his stellar occupation on the court played out, Netolicky’s daily life off the court established practically as a great deal excitement.
“His zest for daily life, night and day, has made him just one of the most talked over and cussed gamers in the American Basketball Affiliation in normal and in Indianapolis, in unique,” the IndyStar wrote Nov. 13, 1970. “A pension for exotic pets, stunning girls, speedy high-priced cars and trucks and vivid lights has brought the 6-9 “Drake Dandy,” one particular of the kinder items he is been identified as by some Pacers enthusiasts, a standing.”
There have been admirers, male supporters, who assumed Netolicky cared a lot more about his have superior instances than encouraging the Indiana Pacers gain online games. Or perhaps they had been just “jealous,” a newspaper story stated.
Soon after all, Netolicky experienced ladies chatting. A lot. “Neto observed himself as the Joe Namath of Indianapolis,” reported teammate Billy Keller in “Loose Balls,” a e-book about the ABA by Terry Pluto.
Netolicky wore bell bottoms, restricted shirts, had extended hair and a smooth hook shot.
“If you are single and you do not put on a gray flannel go well with, they say you’re various,” Netolicky mentioned in 1971. “I don mod dresses, love fantastic periods and I like to social gathering. If which is a flake, then I’m a flake.”
Netolicky was referring to being the only player named four straight seasons to the All-Flake team in the ABA, an honor that was not so a great deal an honor but a jab at staying a lot less basketball participant and more a “player.”
But Netolicky was a basketball player. He was a constant double-double menace in the early yrs of the ABA, averaging 18 details and 10.2 rebounds although building the All-Star workforce his 1st 4 seasons. He gained ABA championships in 1970 and 1972.
“I like to love daily life and have a very good time,” Netolicky explained in 1970. “But I will inform you this. I delight in successful as substantially as any person and I believe I hustle really excellent now. Most persons chat and other men and women believe it. Points are prepared and then it really is tough to dwell them down.”
Elvis Presley of Indianapolis
There had been rumors that Netolicky was a “swinger” (IndyStar wrote about it at the time), the form of rumors born from a participant who is handsome, wears funky outfits and likes females and rapidly cars and trucks. Netolicky mentioned he experienced a girlfriend most of the time he played for the Pacers.
There have been rumors that he cared far more about his company, the bar Neto’s he opened in the spring of 1970, than basketball.
“I talked about the idea of getting a bar with Slick 1 night time final year and he OK’d it,” Netolicky explained in 1970. “I believe I am taking part in much better mainly because of the bar. If I do not engage in very well, the enterprise will not likely do perfectly.”
Folks understood they could occur to Neto’s and see Pacers players, get up shut and particular with them.
His bar, Netolicky said, was a lot more than just a specialist basketball player’s side gig. It was a location where by everyone arrived together and felt welcome. Neto’s was in the Meadows buying spot at 38th Avenue and Keystone Avenue.
“The coolest point, back then, there had been no sports bars,” he mentioned. “And there wasn’t a bar in Indianapolis where you would see Black and white folks hanging out.” In later years, Netolicky mentioned, Indianapolis’ civic leaders explained to him that Neto’s was a bridge that introduced Black and white men and women with each other.
“I am happy of that,” he reported.
“It turned the area to go immediately after a video game,” the IndyStar described. “Most of the gamers from equally teams would end by and the put would be packed with admirers who realized that the gamers would be there.”
Other famous persons were at Neto’s, too. Aside from James Garner, the crew of Apollo 12 with astronaut Pete Conrad, who experienced walked on the moon, after showed up at Neto’s. All the Indy 500 motorists hung out at Neto’s. Freddy Increase Growth Cannon as soon as obtained up on the bar and sang.
And there was the evening that Netolicky was at the Elvis Presley concert in Indianapolis when Neto’s house band leader received up on stage and introduced that Netolicky experienced identified as. “Elvis will be above listed here in an hour.”
“I present up in my motor vehicle (without the need of Elvis) and 500 persons are waiting to get in,” Netolicky said. “They are not here to see me, they are here to see Elvis, so they are all disappointed.”
But not genuinely. They were not disappointed. Netolicky was, just after all, the Elvis Presley of Indianapolis in people times — even if he isn’t going to want to acknowledge it.
When he retired in 1975, the past first Pacer, IndyStar wrote about Netolicky.
“He grew to become an instantaneous Hoosier hero,” the short article browse. “He was one, owned an ocelot, experienced extended hair and a tremendous gentle hook shot.
“And he built the gals swoon.”