If basketball is religion in Indiana, Peter Obremskey must be a cardinal. The Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer and Indianapolis trial lawyer was one of Branch McCracken’s Hurryin’ Hoosiers, helping the team take the Big 10 cochampionship in 1957. The next year — as team captain, No. 2 scorer and rebounder — he led the team back to a Big 10 championship they didn’t have to share.
Obremskey, 69, didn’t play much basketball until his family moved from New York City to Indiana when he was 10. But he says he quickly learned that the game was “the national sport of Indiana” and started shooting hoops in the alley behind his house.
He played through junior high and into high school at Jeffersonville, leading his team in scoring and rebounding in his junior and senior years, and taking the state championship in 1953. The following year, Obremskey made it onto the Indiana Basketball All-Star Team, where he set up Bobby Plump’s second-most-famous last-minute game-winning shot.
“We were one point behind and I was guarding a guy out of bounds,” Obremskey says, recalling the game against Kentucky. “I stole the ball from him right under the basket, tried to make the shot and, of course, missed. It bounced out to Bobby Plump, he knocked it down and we won the game at the last second again. History repeated itself.”
“So if it wasn’t for me, Plump wouldn’t be famous,” he deadpans.
As a Hoosier forward (“After the coach found out I could not dribble”), Obremskey’s natural speed worked well with McCracken’s fast-break strategy. “I could run,” he says. “So that certainly was a help.” His rebounding skills get an equally modest explanation: “I understood what it meant to block out and was quick enough to get the ball and get out of there before the big boys decided they wanted to take it away from me.”
And Obremskey worked well with the legendary “Big Bear” himself. “You respected the guy,” he says. “He was a tough, gruff coach who didn’t take any nonsense. You did what you were told and, if you did, you didn’t have any problem with Mac — and it helped if you won.”
Basketball wasn’t the only thing that demanded Obremskey’s time at IU. For one, he had class, although he didn’t consider it much trouble to fit his homework into his rigorous practice schedule. “Just part of going to college,” he says. “Some kids nowadays don’t think it’s one of the requirements, but then it was pretty much accepted.” For another, he played on Indiana’s baseball team — at least until more important interests forced him to drop the sport. “I decided, rather than chase fly balls, I’d chase co-eds.”
After Obremskey’s graduation, McCracken decided to make use of his former star’s knowledge of the game, so the coach gave him a scholarship for all three years of law school at Indiana University on the condition that Obremskey help coach the freshman team and do scouting work. “I’ve never forgotten the gift the university has given me,” he says.
Obremskey has stayed involved with the university. He was on the board of trustees for six years, a period that included Bobby Knight’s firing. “Bobby Knight and I have been friends for years,” he says. “I did some legal work for him and he’s a very interesting guy. Unfortunately he just wore out his welcome at IU. He’s a great coach, a great guy and an occasional asshole.”
He kept playing ball while in law school, going to several national Amateur Athletic Union tournaments and, while a JAG officer in the Air Force, playing in three Air Force World-Wide tournaments.
When he left the Air Force in 1964 at age 28, he came to Parr Richey (now Parr Richey Obremskey & Morton), where he’s been ever since. He and his wife, Sandy, have raised four children but never tried to push them into basketball.
In 1993, Obremskey was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. “Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is as high an honor as any kid that played high school basketball in Indiana can hope to achieve,” he says. “All my high school buddies came to the event and that was quite a thrill for me to get together with everybody. They helped celebrate what they helped create. Without your teammates, you wouldn’t be where you are.”
“Right now, though, I’d rather be remembered as a good lawyer than as a good basketball player,” Obremskey says, and then pauses. “Or both, I guess.”