Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame legend Dan Issel joins this week’s ‘cast to discuss his All-Star career in the American Basketball Association with two of the league’s most (relatively) stable franchises – the Kentucky Colonels and the Denver Nuggets. And a brief cup of coffee with one its shakiest, in between.
After an outstanding, twice-named All-American collegiate career at the University of Kentucky (where he still remains as all-time leading scorer) in the late 1960s, Issel spurned a draft call by the NBA’s Detroit Pistons for a chance to stay in the Commonwealth with the John Y. Brown-owned, Louisville-based Colonels.
Joining an already solid lineup (including future Hall of Famer Louis Dampier), Issel immediately lit up the 1970-71 ABA with a league-leading 29.9 points-per-game – powering Kentucky to the ABA Finals (losing to the Utah Stars in seven games), and a share of the league’s Rookie of the Year title.
An eventual six-time ABA All-Star (including his and the league’s final season with the later NBA-absorbed Nuggets), Issel’s prolific scoring touch help lead the Colonels to its first and only league championship in 1975 – later “rewarded” with an unpopular Brown-directed trade to Denver, by way of curious detour to the Baltimore Claws – a franchise that lasted only three pre-season games.
Issel ultimately became the ABA’s second all-time leading scorer (behind Dampier), and upon his retirement from the NBA Nuggets in 1985, only Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Julius Erving had amassed more points (he now sits 11th all time).
We obsess with Issel about his trials and tribulations across the ABA – as well as his current role in helping Louisville return to the pro game with its pursuit of a long-elusive NBA franchise.