Basketball Hall of Famer and former Indiana Pacer Mel Daniels has died at age 71, the Pacers announced Friday.
Daniels had recently undergone open heart surgery, longtime NBA analyst Peter Vecsey reports. Daniels died Friday in Sheridan, Ind.
Daniels, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, spent all but one of his 10 professional seasons in the American Basketball Association, before the ABA and NBA merged in 1976. He was a three-time ABA champion and two-time MVP as a Pacer and the ABA’s first rookie of the year in 1968.
"I played against Wilt, I played against Bob Lanier, I played against [Kareem] Abdul-Jabbar. And we held our own," Daniels told NBA.com in 2012. "To me, basketball was basketball, and they had to prove themselves to us, too."
Daniels was born and raised in Detroit and played college basketball at New Mexico. He was the ninth pick in the 1967 NBA draft, but he was also drafted by the ABA and opted to play on the latter circuit for the Minnesota Muskies. He was traded to the Pacers in 1968 and spent six seasons there, averaging 19.4 points and 16 rebounds per game. He was a four-time All-ABA selection and is the Pacers’ all-time leading rebounder from their ABA years (7,643).
Daniels spent his final two seasons with the Memphis Sounds and New York Nets before retiring in 1976. He joined the Pacers’ front office in 1986 and was the team’s director of player personnel until October 2009.
He is survived by his wife, CeCe, and their family.