In seemingly every episode of “The Last Dance,” some sort of character would emerge at some point during the 60-minute episode as a star on social media to those watching. In the penultimate episode of the Michael Jordan documentary series, that main character was a loud blonde Pacers fan whose fiery spirit towards the Bulls led to her stealing the show.
That woman is Kathy Martin Harrison, and she spoke to The Athletic Indiana for a story on her short-but-impactful role in the episode. As one might imagine with a person so passionate from their seat, Martin Harrison is a long-time season ticket holder for the Pacers. Her father was offered a chance to buy them in 1976, and he joked he’d only get them if they were for front-row seats. The franchise obliged, and a 44-year ownership was born.
“We just have always felt sitting in those seats – and back in the good ol’ days, when we were allowed to banter back and forth with the players and being six feet away from them – it was our mission to go into The Fieldhouse and get in (opponents’) heads because we could make a difference,” Martin Harrison said. “We could get them so screwed up in their heads that they’re going to lose this game.”
While there are certainly many fans throughout the NBA who probably believe their jeers and taunts get under the skin of opposing players, Martin Harrison has anecdotal evidence of the effect she has on those who go up against her beloved Pacers. When she was walking through the Nashville airport in the early 1990s, she ran into Detroit Pistons Hall of Famer Joe Dumars, who immediately recognized her.
“He sees us and goes, ‘Oh my God, it’s those people from the Pacer games,'” she recalled to The Athletic.
Her list of notable feuds also includes friendly verbal bouts with former Celtics forward M.L. Carr, who Martin Harrison eventually got to meet personally along with his wife after a game, and New York Knicks Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, who high-fived Martin Harrison after the Pacers finally defeated the Knicks en route to Indiana’s trip to the 2000 NBA Finals–the Knicks had ended the Pacers’ season in 1993 and 1994.
“When we finally won, making the run to the finals in 2000 and it was the last game in Indy,” Martin Harrison said, “Patrick turned around, looked at me and held his hand way up in the air and said, ‘Truce.’ It was caught on national TV and was all over, and of course, all my friends are calling me, telling me I’m a traitor, how could I high-five Patrick Ewing. And I said it’s way more than that.”
Her heckling days are now over given that the routine that made her infamous in the 90s, and even going into the early 2000s, has petered out now that the NBA enforces a fan code of conduct.
“When I go to my seats, I get nervous if I even just stand up,” she said. “I’m very quiet. We’re not allowed to say a single thing to the players. I will occasionally stand up and yell at the refs after a bad call. But no, we’re not at all allowed to say a word.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean her love for the Pacers has subsided, a love that her father instilled in her when they first started going to games in the late 1960s.
“I love my Pacers,” she said. “Love, love, love. My dad took me in the ABA (days), in 1967, and I fell in love with those guys. He started my passion for the game and, I’m sorry, but I just had to get in those players’ heads. That was my job.”