INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — 371 days. That’s how long it’s been since Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo last played in an NBA game. But on Wednesday, that streak ended.
With 4:12 left in the 1st quarter, Oladipo checked into the game. The Pacer's star played only limited minutes, but his return was an exciting moment for fans.
"She has been talking about it all week, doing chants around the house like, 'Oladipo is back!'" said one mother as she held her daughter. Her daughter was decked out in an Oladipo jersey and holding an Oladipo doll.
The Pacers plan to limit Oladipo's playing time through the All-Star break, and hope he can propel the team to a top seed in the East come playoff time. Fans are hoping so too, already happy with the team's performance.
"Absolutely, we’ve been excited for a year for Vic to come back,” said one fan. "Who would've thought we'd be in this position right now with him out. With our record right now, 13 games over 500?!”
Fans say Oladipo's importance to the team goes far beyond his impact on the court. Although he was born in Maryland, Oladipo made his way to Bloomington to play at Indiana University. After bouncing between NBA teams in Orlando and Oklahoma City, fans feel he's finally home.
"He's really important, he's like our idol," one young fan said. "He played for the Hoosiers, and now he's here representing the NBA.”
“It means pride," one fan and IU grad said of the atmosphere of Oladipo's return. "He's done a great job and we’re really proud of him, and so happy he’s representing us.”