Scoring was the name of Dan Issel's game. He averaged 33.9 points his senior season in college, then 29.9 and 30.6 his first two seasons in the American Basketball Association. He holds the ABA record for most points in a season, and he ranks fifth on pro basketball's all-time scoring list behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, and Moses Malone.
Though a bulky 6'9", Issel was no prototypical big man. He lacked strength and jumping ability, leaving him ill-equipped for wrestling matches in the lane and helpless to block shots. Most of his points came from the high-post, where he drained countless jumpers over opponents either unwilling or unable to defend him 15-20 feet from the basket.
Born October 25, 1948, in Batavia, Illinois, Issel became a phenom at the University of Kentucky, averaging 25.8 points and 13.0 rebounds in three seasons, but he never led the Wildcats past the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament. His last game, in 1970, was a loss to Jacksonville University, which featured center Artis Gilmore. Two years later, he and Gilmore became teammates in the ABA.
Issel was coveted by both pro leagues, but he signed with the Kentucky Colonels. Sensational from the get-go, he edged Rick Barry for the ABA scoring title and was named co-Rookie of the Year. When Gilmore arrived for the 1971-1972 season, Issel moved to forward and set an ABA record with 2,538 points.
After winning a championship with Kentucky in 1975, Issel was traded twice in three weeks, first to the Baltimore Claws, who folded, and then to the Denver Nuggets. He played 10 seasons in Denver, averaging more than 20 points a game seven times. The Nuggets advanced to the ABA Finals in 1976, losing to Julius Erving's New York Nets despite Issel's 30 points and 20 rebounds in Game 6.
It was the last ABA game ever played; the Nuggets and three other ABA franchises joined the NBA for the 1976-1977 season. Issel ended his pro career in 1985 with 27,482 points. A favorite son in both Kentucky and Colorado, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1993.
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