Narrow bridges

Bridges: Benner’s NBA career was an odyssey and more

It’s not that difficult to describe David Benner, director of media relations for the Pacers. Words like humble, sincere and well-organized certainly come to mind, but one could also define him as both tolerant and grateful, having dealt with the multitude of changes in the NBA during his career, and displaying the ultimate level of gratitude for the occasion.

Recently, I asked him to reflect on some of the great moments and memories of his 28-year career and found out even more about his swansong season and the host of people he quickly attributes his professional success to.

David Benner (Photo courtesy of Pacers Sports and Entertainment)

Considering how it all started for him as a student manager of the Center Grove boys’ basketball team and ended with nearly three decades leading all media relations with the Pacers, he It’s easy to see why Benner recognizes how lucky he really was. to transition from his position as a sportswriter at the Indianapolis Star to his current position at the behest of then-Pacers general manager Donnie Walsh.

“I can’t thank Donnie enough for the opportunity he gave me,” Benner said recently. “He supported me as I matured in the job and he is truly a role model for anyone who has ever met him.”

In a career that has featured six Eastern Conference Finals appearances, as well as a trip to the NBA Finals, Benner has truly seen it all and more. He also supported many Pacers players who appeared in All Star Games and accompanied the team on their trips overseas to play games in other countries.

Not too bad for a guy who readily admits he didn’t know how to tie his headscarf when he officially took the job in 1994.

However, for my money, it is his close personal friendship with Hall of Famer Reggie Miller that I and many others look upon with envy and great respect. Benner was on NBA pace for the Star when Miller was drafted and wrote the first feature about the slim but confident UCLA player. From there, the professional relationship turned into a friendship and produced some exciting yet loving times for the two.

Benner cites Miller as one of the most superstitious individuals he has ever met, and no better example of this is the traditional pre-game sip of a soda that Miller would take after Benner handed him a cup. “It started when I was on the sidelines before a game sipping a soda and Reggie came in and had a drink of it and then came out and had a good game and we won. The next game he asked again and it became a ritual.

That pre-game moment would carry on for the rest of Miller’s historic days with the Pacers and is widely recognized as a staple of both of their careers.

The two have remained close, and Miller recently surprised Benner by flying in to participate in the retirement celebration the Pacers threw for him.

Through it all, Benner was the quintessential professional and conducted himself with style and grace. He remains grateful to his colleagues across the country and chronicled his recent visits to their respective arenas with photos on his Twitter account.

While he’ll be sure to return home from their respective arenas in the wee hours of the morning, he’ll certainly miss the people he worked with on the road.

I am here to tell you that everyone who has had the pleasure of meeting this exceptional individual is better off and indeed will be bored.

Goodbye to a mountain of people, and thank you for making our job so much easier.

Notes: In true David Benner fashion, he took the time during our chat to thank his staff, which helped him earn multiple awards from the National Basketball Writers Association as well as the NBA.
The Pacers secured Benner’s successor earlier this season in Michael Preston. His resume includes an 11-year stint with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Danny Bridges, who believes David Benner deserves a Medal of Honor for putting up with him all these years, can be reached at 317-370-8447 or [email protected]