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

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.

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The Lowdown: Don Buse

Years Active: 1973 – 1985
Regular Season Stats: 966 games, 27.1 mpg
7.1 ppg, 4.6 apg, 2.7 rpg, 2.0 spg, 44% FG, 33% 3PT, 77.7% FT
Playoff Stats: 84 games, 25.6 mpg
5.7 ppg, 3.4 apg, 1.7 spg, 40% FG, 28.7% 3PT, 65.8% FT
ABA Accolades: All-Star (1976), 2x All-Defensive 1st Team (1975-’76), All-ABA 2nd Team (1976), ABA Champion (1973); APG leader (1976), SPG leader (1976)
NBA Accolades: All-Star (1977) 4x All-Defensive 1st Team (1977-’80); APG leader (1977), SPG leader (1977)

Don Buse lowdown

“Me being named to the team was something unusual. Most of the guys in here are averaging at least 15 points a game. And here’s me, averaging 8 or 9. It’s a switch for people to recognize my style.”

- Don Buse, via the Milwaukee Journal, 1977

Don Buse making the 1977 all-star team was a bit of a fluke. If it weren’t for Bill Walton going down injured, he wouldn’t have had a spot. But there was Buse suiting up in one of the more classic all-star games. His stat line wasn’t impressive: 4 points and 5 assists in 19 minutes.

Nonetheless, Boo worked his magic and sparked the West squad to victory along with Paul Westphal. Entering the game with 5:31 left in the 3rd quarter and the West down 83 – 75, Don instantly opened up ball movement on offense and terrorized the East on defense, ultimately ending the game with 4 steals. At the end of the 3rd, the West had swung the game around to a 97-89 lead and would go on to win 125 – 124.

That would be Buse’s 2nd and final all-star game, but the Hoosier State legend had already accomplished much and would continue to do so.

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