The Indiana Pacers heartthrob who owned exotic pets

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INDIANAPOLIS — “You’re embarrassing me,” Bob Netolicky says, laughing while on the phone from his Texas home, trying to downplay this crazy story idea he was called about.

The story revolves around “Neto,” the Indiana Pacers heartthrob, the player who made men swear and women swoon, who waited outside the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum to catch a glimpse or glimpses of the 6-9 power forward , the exotic owned pets, dressed extravagantly and ran the hippest bar in town, where the likes of James Garner hung out.

Yes, Netolicky will admit he dressed fashionably (“All those ABA guys did that,” he says) and yes, he owned exotic pets, including an ocelot, a lioness, and a margay. Yes, he owned the now-defunct indy bar Neto’s, where famous people who came to town for the Indianapolis 500 or some other big event would drink the night away.

But a heartthrob? Powerless women? sex symbol?

“I’m not sure I remember all of that,” says Netolicky, 80. “I think some of that stuff gets out of proportion over time. I’m not sure I was a heartthrob. I don’t really remember women waiting for me.”