INDIANAPOLIS — Pacers Forward Jalen Smith is emerging as one of the team’s up and coming role players this season.
And as the blue and gold take the court at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, he’s got some special guests on-hand to see the games unfold up close.
“Just to be able to give them thanks for their sacrifice and putting their lives on the line so I can play the game I love is a full circle [moment],” Smith said.
Smith is hosting troops from the Indiana National Guard at home games for the 2023-24 season. His father is retired from the United States Navy, so he knows firsthand the unique dynamic of being in a military family.
“It can really take a toll on you, so I just want to show them thanks and show I come from that background and understand how they feel,” Smith said.
The National Guard members are invited to be courtside for pregame warmups, photo ops and autographs. Then they are given prime suite seats for the game – a memorable evening for the men and women serving our country.
“It’s really nice and important what they’re doing for us here. I’ve never been that close [to the court] in my life, so it’s been really fun,” Indiana National Guard Capt. Douglas Hattabaugh said.
“The players were all super respectful and nice. They came over, thanked us and recognized us. I thought it was extremely well thought out and nice,” Indiana National Guard Spec. Drew Hayden said.
For Smith, it’s a chance to connect with fans in a personal way.
“We have fans all around the world, I mean the NBA is a global thing,” Smith said. “For them to be able to watch us while they are deployed is amazing. It shows we can provide entertainment for them while they provide safety for us.”