Skip to main content

“I’d go to pay the bill and somebody had paid the bill already” — Jermaine O'Neal explains the love Indiana has for basketball

Jermaine O'Neal will never forget the love Indiana gave him.
Indiana Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal

Jermaine O'Neal

Aside from Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O’Neal was one of the youngest players in the superb 1996 NBA Draft class that soon became the brightest star in the league. Like any other 18-year-old prospect, O’Neal spent his first four seasons learning the trade in Portland. He took all that knowledge and became one of the foundation pieces of an up-and-coming team in Indiana.

Perks of being a star in Indiana

After just two seasons in Indiana, O’Neal was already the franchise’s marquee player, having won the league’s Most Improved Player award and registered his first double-double season averages (19 points, 10.5 rebounds per game).

As expected, the entire city was enamored with everything “J.O.” did for the Pacers. Needless to say, O’Neal enjoyed how the people of Indiana showered him with love, especially their touching gestures in public places.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Everything they go through on a daily basis, the Pacers or Colts, either help it or makes it worse,” O’Neal told IndyStar of the people of Indiana in 2018. “They live and die. You feel the reception.

I remember coming from games during my max [contract] years with me and my family,” he continued. “I’ll go into Ruth’s Chris [steak house]. They’ll have my room in the back and I’d go to pay the bill and somebody had paid the bill already. That happened multiple times. That’s the love people give you. They’re so passionate about that team, whatever is happening is how they feel.

Jermaine paid it forward

O’Neal’s reign as the Pacers’ talisman had been cut short due to injuries and other off-court issues. However, he made sure to pay forward the love he received from the city of Indianapolis during his prime years through various investments.

In fact, he admitted in the interview that he has been having “difficulty remembering exactly how many Church’s Chicken franchises he has invested in.” Off the top of his head, they’re probably “about 32” at the time. He also can’t remember the exact locations of the” two-star resorts he has helped” develop into five-star destinations--Napa Valley and Cabo San Lucas, and “the number of companies” he’s helped financially within the Bay Area.

As of this year, O’Neal’s reported net worth is believed to be around the region of $70 million. He may be living in one of his mansions somewhere in the country by now, but he will surely never forget Indiana was once his home.

Isiah Thomas & Karl Malone

Isiah Thomas opens up about a surprising phone call he received from Karl Malone - "He almost started crying on the phone"

Isiah Thomas shares what happened when he got a surprising call from Karl Malone, who wanted to apologize for an incident that happened 30 years ago between the two legends

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson

"Then what happens? They’re gonna consider him a bust" — Vince Carter gave Zion Williamson helpful advice

Like Zion, Carter was also branded as primarily a dunker when he entered the league and everybody expected him to throw it down all the time.

Stone Cold Steve Austin celebrates with beer during WrestleMania in 2022 and LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009

"I've forgotten so many things but I remember that vividly" — Steve Austin on LeBron James taking photos of him via flip phone

Stone Cold didn't need to check his social media or the internet as he vividly remembers the King's support.

Michael Jordan in 2022 at the NBA 75th Anniversary Team induction ceremony

“You're a loser! You've always been a loser!” - how Michael Jordan trash-talked his teammate into retirement

When MJ said he doesn't care, he really meant it - even if his teammate once retired because of his cruel trash talk.

Kerry Kittles in 2021 at a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame press conference.

"Mostly they’re talking about scoring and scoring" — Kerry Kittles on today's NBA

Kerry Kittles doesn't like the lack of defense in today's game but admittedly would've loved to play in this era.

Former Kansas Jayhawks player Scot Pollard

“It’s a common expression here” - Scot Pollard revealed the code the Sacramento Kings used for too much dribbling

As it turned out, every single player on "The Greatest Show on the Court" Kings was about team basketball.