When two gubernatorial candidates almost played basketball against each other

INDIANAPOLIS -- Roll up your pant legs, grab your overalls and slip on your mood rings -- it's time to go back to the 1990s.

The Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament is back in Indianapolis. They will make their return July 29-30 on custom courts, set up on Michigan Street near the intersection of King Avenue on Indy's west side.

The tournaments were a staple of summertime in Indianapolis, sometimes closing sections of downtown streets as people played Indiana's sport. The 3-on-3 tournaments are back after a 14-year hiatus.

The IOC also added half-court 3-on-3 basketball to the lineup of the next Olympics, sanctioned by FIBA. Teams play to 21 points.

But this story isn't just about the return of the tournaments. It's also about how two people vying for Indiana's top political office nearly played against each other in the tournaments.

In June 2000, Ind. Gov. Frank O'Bannon challenged Republican opponent David McIntosh and his crew to one of the 3-on-3 tournaments. 

Both teams had their advantages. O'Bannon was on the basketball team at Indiana University, although he didn't play. Republican Steve Carter played basketball at Harvard.

In pure political fashion, McIntosh declined the challenge, saying since O'Bannon wouldn't debate him on property taxes, he wouldn't play basketball against him.

"We have an obligation to Hoosier voters everywhere to talk about taxes first and then to play basketball," Robb Collins, McIntosh's spokesperson, said in 2000.

A week later, McIntosh announced he'd changed his mind about playing the game. 

"Well, I'm looking forward to a good basketball game," Carter said. "I think it's good that we accept the challenge to play for the benefit of charity. I'm also hopeful that the Democrats will accept our challenge to debate the issues."

McIntosh wanted to play the games in conjunction with the debates on property taxes, but O'Bannon said they were simply for basketball.

"I know they're concerned about talking about taxes," O'Bannon said. "But they're shooting air balls on taxes. There's no program there. My program's been out since last December. So there's nothing to debate. You can't debate a slogan."

For reasons lost to history, the game was never played. It was canceled a few days later. But O'Bannon was the real winner. He won November's election against McIntosh with 56.6 percent of the vote. 

Signups for the 2017 Gus Macker tournaments cost $140 per team. The deadline is July 10. For more information, click here

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