Big and bad. Rough and tough. Mel Daniels doesn’t exactly fit the archetype of the ABA. It was a free-wheeling league where afros grew tall, dunkers flew high, and defense was negotiable, if played at all. Daniels, despite not fitting any of those bills, deposited the most successful career of any person in the ABA’s brief history.
He was Rookie of the Year, a two-time MVP, and a three-time champion. At only 6’9″, Daniels nonetheless led the ABA in rebounds per game three times and is the league’s all-time leading rebounder. Rebounding was certainly Mel’s best quantifiable asset, but his scoring was also of import. He had decent range on his jumper and was a beast on getting cleanup buckets.
However, Mel’s best asset wasn’t quantifiable, it was pure qualitative. It was his imposing presence that solidified and anchored the Indiana Pacers as the most successful franchise in the ABA. The man was an imposing leader for the Pacers. If a scrum broke out, Daniels would be in the middle of it to make sure his Indiana mates wouldn’t be intimidated.
If his fists and granite-hard picks didn’t intimate enough intimidation, then Daniels’ game was certainly more than good enough to accomplish the task. On one spectacular occasion, he scored 37 points pulled down 26 rebounds in a single half. Those kinds of exciting performances though were always in the ABA for Mel. He had a 9-year career, but spent just a grand total of 11 forgettable games in the NBA.
What shouldn’t be forgettable are his triumphant days in the ABA. They were 628 games of unrequited triumph.
For more on Mel Daniels’ career, head over to Yahoo!’s Ball Don’t Lie
Seasons Played: 1968 – 1977
3x Champion (1970, 1972-’73)
2x MVP (1969, 1971)
4x All-ABA 1st Team (1968-’71), All-ABA 2nd Team (1973)
Rookie of the Year (1968), All-Rookie 1st Team (1968)
7x All-Star (1968-’74)
ABA - 628 Games
18.7 PPG, 15.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.5 BPG, 46.8% FG, 65.8% FT
3x RPG Leader (1968-’69, 1971)
9th All-Time Games Played, 4th All-Time Minutes Played
4th All-Time Points, 4th All-Time FGs Made, 9th All-Time FTs Made
1st All-Time Rebounds, 1st All-Time Defensive Rebs, 1st All-Time Offensive Rebs
10th All-Time Blocks
2nd All-Time RPG, 10th All-Time BPG
14th All-Time MPG, 20th All-Time PPG