Pro Hoops History HOF: Roger Brown

Roger Brown
Roger Brown

Roger Brown’s professional basketball career came perilously close to mirroring the fate of his college career. Coming out of New York City, Brown was one of the most highly recruited players in the country and the University of Dayton snagged the superb baller. But a point-shaving and gambling scandal surrounding Jack Molinas took down many promising young players like Connie Hawkins, Doug Moe, and Roger Brown.

Dayton and the NCAA banned Brown in 1960. The NBA likewise did so when Brown became eligible for their draft four years later. Brown had already moved to Dayton, Ohio, far from his New York home and was stuck. Over the years he kept his game and skills alive via amateur and semi-pro games, often against NBA players like Oscar Robertson.

Finally, in 1967, a chance for revival occurred thanks to the Indiana Pacers of the ABA. The new league was looking for any and all talent. Brown, Moe, and Hawkins all got their breaks thanks to the ABA. But of the three, Brown certainly made the most of the ABA as a player.

The strong and burl swingman gave the Pacers an instant star and credibility. Then in 1968 the Pacers traded for center Mel Daniels who gave Indiana the dynamic core of their three ABA titles. Freddie Lewis, Bob Netolicky, George McGinnis, Bill Keller, and others flowed around this tandem, but when times got critical and the clock got low, it was Roger Brown who invariably got the ball.

The 1969 and 1970 postseasons were the absolute highlights of Brown’s ABA career as he averaged 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. In 1969, the Pacers lost to the Oakland Oaks in the Finals. In 1970, Brown wouldn’t allow for a repeat of that heartache and secured a tough 4-games-to-2 series win over the Los Angeles Stars. Brown was monstrous down the stretch of that series scoring 53, 39, and 45 points in the final three games.

The scintillating performances earned him the Playoff MVP award.

Brown unleashed those spectacular games using a bevvy of one-on-one moves no defender could hope to stop on his own. Brown would lean and twist his body into a defender creating the space for him to nail his sweet sweet jumper. On the break, Brown had good handles to strike all the way to the basket. But the threat of his pull up jumper kept the defense confused and on figurative roller skates.

(check out my review of the fantastic documentary on Roger Brown by director Ted Green)

Rajah, as he was affectionately and devotedly called, was also one of the first players to skillfully utilize the three-point shot. He could catch the rock, stand still, stare you down, then rise up on the wing and bury the three. His three-point accuracy increased with age as he finished in the ABA’s top 5 in 3PT% three times toward the end of his career in the mid-1970s.

The end of his pro career came in 1974-75. Prior to that season he had spent all of his ABA days with the Pacers, but that season Brown spent time with the Memphis Sounds and Utah Stars before finally returning home to Indiana by season’s end where he retired.

And make no mistake, Indiana was now home for Brown. He served as a city councilman and was immersed in the community. When he passed way in 1997 at age 54, his funeral was held at the Pacers’ Market Square Arena – an arena that wouldn’t have existed without Brown’s basketball exploits two decades earlier. Old teammates who had become family for Brown carried him off the court, in his casket, for the final time.

That Brown never spent a single second in the NBA just proves that basketball’s greatest players can be found in any place. They’re success as professionals may rest on their own shoulders but their failure can just as easily be heaped on unjust forces. Roger Brown initially looked to be the latter: a victim of railroad “justice”. Fortunately for Roger Brown, the Pacers gave him the opportunity. Even more important, Roger was willing to risk one more potential letdown for basketball redemption. Thankfully, the regal Rajah didn’t fail, but instead succeeded beyond belief.

Years Played: 1967 – 1975

Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers

Accolades

ABA -
3x Champion (1970, 1972-’73)
Playoff MVP (1970)
All-ABA 1st Team (1971)
2x All-ABA 2nd Team (1968, 1970)
4x All-Star (1968, 1970-’72)

Statistics

ABA - 605 Games
17.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.8 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.6 BPG

All-Time ABA Ranks
10th Points, 25th PPG
13th FGs Made, 48th FG%
8th FTs Made, 36th FT%
7th 3PTs Made, 11th 3PT%
10th Assists, 19th APG
24th Rebounds
11th Games Played, 6th Minutes Played

ProHoopsHistory HOF: Mel Daniels

Mel Daniels (nasljerseys)
Mel Daniels (nasljerseys)

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

Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers

Accolades

ABA -
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)

Statistics

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

Pro Hoops History HOF: George McGinnis

George McGinnis (philly.com)
George McGinnis (philly.com)

If this were the NBA Hall of Fame, then George McGinnis likely wouldn’t be a member of the club. He definitely had a fine NBA career. Over his first four NBA seasons McGinnis averaged 22 points, 11.5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals a game. He was a member of the All-NBA 1st Team, made the All-Star game, and along with Julius Erving helped lead the Philadelphia 76ers to the 1977 NBA Finals.

After those first four seasons, McGinnis quickly faded. He lasted only three more seasons averaging 10.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.4 steals. Not bad numbers by any means, but it’s not blowing anyone away.

But that’s just McGinnis’ NBA career. If you take in his days in the ABA, you don’t just have a pretty good career. You achieve Hall of Fame status. As a rookie on the Indiana Pacers in 1972, McGinnis helped push the Pacers to the ABA title. The next season (1973), McGinnis was named the Finals MVP as the Pacers once again won the ABA title. By 1974 he was a member of the All-ABA 1st Team. In 1975 he was awarded the league’s regular season MVP award after averaging an absurd 30 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists and 2.5 steals a game.

After that mammoth season, McGinnis jumped ship to the NBA where the Philadelphia 76ers were ecstatic to receive an MVP caliber player:

As his averages attest, McGinnis was one of the finest all-around players basketball has ever seen. As a power forward, he certainly lived up to the typical job description. He tussled aggressively on the boards and was one of the strongest men in basketball. McGinnis’ chiseled physique didn’t mean a lumbering giant, though. He was able to grab a board and dribble the length of the court to flush home a dunk or perform duty as point forward.

His combination of power and speed grew from the seeds planted by Maurice Stokes in the 1950s and McGinnis helped pass it on to the likes of Karl Malone and LeBron James. Taking in McGinnis’ entire pro basketball career easily propels him to the status of Hall of Famer.

And if you need to see more reasons why, just click here

Years Played: 1971 – 1982

Accolades

ABA -
2x Champion (1972-’73)
MVP (1975)
Playoff MVP (1973)
2x All-ABA 1st Team (1974-’75)
All ABA 2nd Team (1973)
3x All-Star (1973-’75)
All-Rookie 1st Team (1972)

NBA -
All-NBA 1st Team (1976)
All-NBA 2nd Team (1977)
3x All-Star (1976-’77, 1979)

Statistics

ABA – 314 Games
25.2 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 3.5 APG, 2.2 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 47.0% FG, 68.2% FT
PPG Leader (1975)

NBA -
 528 Games
17.2 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 44.8% FG, 65.1% FT

Contemporary NBA/ABA Ranks (1971-72 through 1981-82 season)
7th Points, 22nd PPG
11th FGs Made, 5th FTs Made
3rd Steals*, 9th SPG*
5th Rebounds, 10th RPG
17th Assists, 37th APG
10th Games Played, 7th Minutes Played

*Stat not kept until the 1973-74 season

ProHoopsHistory HOF: Reggie Miller

Reggie Miller (Indianapolis Star)
Reggie Miller (Indianapolis Star)

Reggie Miller possessed one of those Hall of Fame careers predicated more on longevity than overwhelming dominance. He made a respectable five All-Star Games in his 18-year career. He also garnered a decent three selections to the All-NBA 3rd Team.

His career-high in PPG came in his third season (24.6) and on only one other occasion did Miller surpass the 22-point per game plateau. He averaged a mere 3 rebounds and 3 assists per game. He only grabbed one steal per game.

However, Miller was remarkably consistent. Sure, he never had breathtaking scoring averages, but from 1990 to 2001, he never fell below 18 PPG. That consistent scoring did come on breathtaking percentages. He routinely led the NBA in FT%, or came very close. That tends to happen when you shoot 88.8% from the line for your career.

Most famously, his three-point shooting was absolutely prodigious. Bounding off of screens and picks galore, Miller could curl, catch and shoot faster than just about any player in NBA history. To make matters worse for defenders, Miller had a habit of extending his leg while shooting to catch the opponent and draw a foul. So even if he didn’t knock down the shot, he was going to receive two free throws that he was assuredly going to make.

Miller also chose the best times to unleash torrential scoring when it comes to remembering outstanding performances. 25-point quarters in Madison Square Garden tend to sear memories. As do 8 points in 9 seconds. Or whirling three-point shots that miraculously bank in. And shoving Michael Jordan to break free for a three.

Reggie lived for the stage of the postseason and thanks to his dramatic performances, he’ll be long remembered as one of the premier players of his, or any, era.

Seasons Played: 1988 – 2005

Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers

Accolades

NBA -
3x All-NBA 3rd Team (1995-’96, 1998)
5x All-Star (1990, 1995-’96, 1998, 2000)

Statistics

NBA - 1389 Games
18.2 PPG, 3.0 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 47.1% FG, 39.5% 3PT, 88.8% FT
5x FT% Leader (1991, 1999, 2001-’02, 2005)
2nd All-Time 3PT FGs Made, 13th All-Time in FTs Made
9th All-Time in FT%, 14th All-Time in Points
7th All-Time in Games Played, 8th All-Time in Minutes Played

Pro Hoops History HOF: Detlef Schrempf

Detlef Schrempf
Detlef Schrempf

Detlef Schrempf is one of the more fascinating and interesting players in NBA history. For starters, he’s clearly one of the more versatile players to ever suit up. For non-starters, he regularly came off the bench until he was 30 years old. Finally, Detlef was one of the first European players to have a major impact on the NBA.

Drafted by the Dallas Mavericks, Detlef didn’t see too much playing time as a reserve player. In 1987, however, he gave a glimpse to his long-range shooting acumen with a blistering 48% shooting from downtown. Traded to the Indiana Pacers midway through the 1988-89 season, Schrempf continued to come off the bench, but saw a significant bump in his minutes and production. By 1993 he was finally promoted to the starting lineup and produced a staggering line of 19 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6 assists per game. Not bad for a 6’9″, 210 lbs. power forward.

And don’t let the slender frame fool you, Detlef was at home camping out at the three-point line, attacking off the dribble, or posting up on the low block. His vast array of skills made him a 3x All-Star and also he’s one of only three players to win the Sixth Man of the Year Award twice along with Ricky Pierce and Kevin McHale. Schrempf and McHale are the only two men to win the award in back-to-back seasons.

Schrempf was dealt from the Pacers to the Seattle SuperSonics prior to the 1993-94 season. Detlef, of course, continued his fine all-around play. In 1995, he averaged a career-high 19.2 points per game while shooting a ridiculous 52.3% FG, 51.4% 3PT, and 83.9% FT. The next season, the SuperSonics reached the NBA Finals but lost to the Chicago Bulls.

That series was notable for both squads prominently featuring foreign players: the Sonics with Detlef and the Bulls with Toni Kukoc. Clearly, the NBA was becoming more familiar and amenable to the European player. And why not? If guys like Detlef were a sign of things to come, then NBA teams would have been fools to ignore the benefits.

However, even if Detlef weren’t a pioneering European player, he’d still have the credentials to strut into this Hall of Fame.

Years Played: 1985 – 2001

Accolades

NBA –
2x Sixth Man of the Year (1991-’92)
All-NBA 3rd Team (1995)
3x All-Star (1993, ’95, ’97)

Statistics

NBA - 1136 Games
13.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.4 APG, 0.75 SPG, 0.27 BPG
58.6% TS, 49.1% FG, 38.4% 3PT, 80.3% FT
17.2 PER, .156 WS/48
117 Off. Rating, 107 Def. Rating

Contemporary NBA Ranks (1985-86 through 1999-2000 season)
19th Points
9th FTs Made, 36th FT%
26th FGs Made, 38th FG%
39th 3PTs Made, 12th 3PT%
17th Rebounds, 29th Assists
7th Games Played, 16th Minutes Played

11th Win Shares, 20th WS/48
12th TS%, 14th Offensive Rating

Pro Hoops History HOF: Freddie Lewis

Freddie Lewis (indystar.com)
Freddie Lewis (indystar.com)

The career of Freddie Lewis is marked by two second chances.

Drafted by the NBA’s Cincinnati Royals, Freddie couldn’t see the light of day with the regal squad of the Queen City. From Cincy’s point of view, it made sense. Oscar Robertson was at the peak of his powers while Flynn Robinson and John McGlocklin were capable backups. Not much room for a 4th round pick like Freddie Lewis to make headway.

After the wasted 1966-67 season in the NBA (Oscar Robertson’s mentorship aside), Freddie Lewis received a rebirth in the ABA. Joining the Indiana Pacers, Lewis eventually formed the ABA’s most powerful franchise with Roger Brown, Bob Netolicky, Mel Daniels, Bill Keller, and George McGinnis.

Freddie Lewis’ ball-handling skills, sharp-shooting, and hustle made him indispensable to the Pacers juggernaut.

Throughout Indiana’s playoff and title runs, Lewis was the man with the ball when things got critical. During the 1972 postseason, he led the Pacers past the Utah Stars in the climactic seventh game with 23 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists. In the next round, Indiana squared off with the New York Nets for the ABA title. Lewis spearheaded a dramatic 20-point comeback in Game 5. His clutch steal and free throws with 20 seconds left in the game sealed the Pacers’ 2nd ABA title in that decisive game.

However, by 1974, the Pacers assumed Lewis was washed up and traded him to the Memphis Sounds. The Sounds quickly flipped Lewis to the Spirits of St. Louis where he’d get his second second chance.

With the Spirits for the 1974-75 season, Lewis had perhaps the greatest year of his career at age 30. He averaged career-highs in PPG, APG, SPG and FG%. What was old age to Indiana was veteran presence and a steadying hand for St. Louis’ stable of youngsters including Marvin Barnes and Maurice Lucas.

In typical Lewis fashion, he helped St. Louis upset the 58-win Nets in the postseason. In the deciding Game 5, Freddie scored the Spirits’ final 10 points including a buzzer-beating jumper to win the game, 108-107. A severely sprained ankle suffered by Lewis in the next playoff round prevented the Spirits from making a deeper run. His lost leadership left St. Louis adrift and they were thrashed by the Kentucky Colonels.

Thereafter, Freddie had one more productive season with St. Louis in 1976, but the franchise was in absolute chaos as the ABA crumbled in its final year. Lewis spent his last season (1977) as a reserve back on the Pacers and in the NBA.

Despite his exploits, Freddie Lewis remains an under-appreciated legend outside of Indiana. But he has found himself in these waters before. Maybe yet another second chance lurks around the corner for Lewis to finally find widespread recognition.

Years Played: 1966 – 1977

Accolades

ABA -
3x Champion (1970, 1972-’73)
Playoff MVP (1972)
4x All-Star (1968, ’70, ’72, ’75)
All-Star Game MVP (1975)

Statistics

ABA Career (1967-68 through 1975-76)
NBA Career (1966-67 and 1976-77)
Peak Career Production (1967-68 through 1974-75)

Average and Advanced Stats

Stat Career Playoff Peak Peak Rank
Games 750 109 612 8th
PPG 16.0 18.6 17.3 23rd
RPG 3.7 4.0 4.0 72nd
APG 4.0 4.2 4.2 12th
SPG 1.47 1.74 1.67 13th
BPG 0.09 0.09 0.10 76th
TS% 0.516 0.513 0.52 46th
2PT% 0.448 0.445 0.451 70th
3PT% 0.28 0.246 0.278 38th
FT% 0.817 0.852 0.819 20th
PER 15.0 15.2 15.3 48th
WS/48 0.104 0.107 0.110 36th
Ortg 105 112 107
Drtg 107 109 107

Aggregate Stats

Stat Career Playoff Peak Peak Rank
Games 750 109 612 8th
Minutes 24924 4160 21772 4th
Points 12033 2023 10564 1st
Rebounds 2752 441 2448 44th
Assists 2979 458 2590 5th
Steals 373 40 246 16th
Blocks 23 2 14 97th
2PTs 4027 673 3514 13th
3PTs 275 43 244 9th
FTs 3154 548 2804 3rd
WS 53.8 9.3 50 12th

 

Steals, Blocks, and Drtg not kept until 1973-74
3PTs, 3PT% only 1967-68 through 1975-76
Ortg only 1973-74 through 1975-76

The Lowdown: George McGinnis

Years Active: 1972-1982
Regular Season Stats: 845 games, 33.5 MPG
20.2 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.88 SPG, 0.48 BPG, 45.8% FG, 66.4% FT
Postseason Stats: 104 games, 35.7 MPG
20.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.41 SPG, 0.41 BPG, 43.5% FG, 68.2% FT

ABA Accolades: MVP (1975), 2x All-ABA 1st Team (1974-75), All-ABA 2nd Team (1973), 3x All-Star (1973-75), All-ABA Rookie 1st Team (1972), 2x ABA Champion (1972-73
NBA Accolades: All-NBA 1st Team (1976), All-NBA 2nd Team (1977), 3x NBA All-Star (1976-77, ’79)

George McGinnis 76ers

New York coach Lou Carnesecca was quoted as saying that Indiana’s muscular 6-foot-8, 235 pound rookie George McGinnis looked like a heavy weight contender. Carnesecca amended his evaluation following the third game [of the ABA Finals] Friday night.

“Now, you can say he’s the champion,” said the diminutive Nets’ coach, who barely would reach McGinnis’ elbow.

Carnesecca made his reevaluation after the burly McGinnis wrecked the Nets, scoring 30 points and grabbing a game high 20 rebounds…

- Via The Evening Independent, May 13, 1972

Burly is indeed the most accurate description for the body and physique of George McGinnis. Just an absolute mammoth of a power forward who, aside from Artis Gilmore, was probably the strongest man in the ABA. Unsurprisingly, he was an absolute beast on the boards trampling and demolishing opponents, particularly on the offensive glass. His career average of 3.7 is 10th all-time amongst players who have appeared in at least 240 games (equivalent to about 3 seasons).

This steady stream of offensive boards and subsequent putbacks partially fed his healthy point production. Also of aid were his sweet mid-range jumpers and his cunning-but-not-quite-graceful drives to the hoop. For 7 straight seasons he averaged above 20 points a game culminating in 1975 when he topped off at 29.8 per game.

And as if this wasn’t enough of an offensive threat, he could pass the ball extremely well. 6 straight seasons he held an assist per game average above 3.5., including 3 seasons above 4.5 in that stretch. Big George also had quick, strong hands which led to a career steals per game average of 1.9. That’s an incredibly high total for anyone let alone a power forward. In fact, that 1.9 is 4th all time amongst forwards and 26th overall.

McGinnis, however, surly had pitfalls to his game. For starters, he turned the ball over with a galling frequency: 4 a game over the course of his career. Also his free throw shooting was always poor. It showed signs of improvement until 1975 (74%) and thereafter it plummeted to embarrassing levels by his retirement (45.3%).

The Indiana Pacers, though, weren’t complaining of these deficiencies in 1971 when they acquired the homegrown talent. McGinnis was from Indianapolis and was attending Indiana University when the allure of big time professional dollars led him to leave college after his freshman season. A very unusual move at the time, but given his 30 ppg and 15 rpg averages that one season, he was ready for tougher competition.

Continue reading