Jersey Monday: Jermaine O'Neal

With the Indiana Pacers facing the Miami Heat in the second round of the NBA Playoffs, it seemed like an appropriate time to feature this jersey from my collection, one that connects the two teams.

Though he no longer plays for either franchise -- or ANY franchise, for that matter -- Jermaine O'Neal has links to both the Pacers and the Heat. After opening his career with four forgettable years in Portland, O'Neal came to the Pacers, where he blossomed into a star. He played more than 500 games for Indiana, averaging 18.6 PPG, 9.4 RPG and 2.4 blocks per game, making six All-Star appearances. He even finished third in the MVP voting in 2003-04, the year he, Ron Artest, Al Harrington and company nearly led the Pacers to the Finals.

The Pacers went away from this uniform style to their current duds in the '05-06 season, and I picked up this authentic O'Neal jersey super cheap on eBay a year later. By that point, O'Neal's best Pacers days were behind him, and in 2008 the team shipped him to Toronto. Midway through that season, the Raptors sent him to Miami, where he was mildly effective in the 2009 playoffs, and significantly less so in 2010. Last year, he was a non-factor AGAINST the Heat for the Celtics, and now he's out of the league after suffering a season-ending wrist injury and being released by Boston.

It's fitting that O'Neal's jersey number here is 7, since that's also the number of seasons his prime lasted -- his first seven years in Indy. Also, no player has worn the number since he left the Pacers or the Heat (though in the latter case, we're talking two seasons. Not a huge sample there).

Jersey Monday kind of disappeared for awhile there, but it should continue every Monday until I run out of jerseys to spotlight. And since I’ve got more than 190 of them, that could be awhile.

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