In a recent interview, Julius Erving praised an unheralded star as the central piece of the ABA-NBA merger. Erving says Mel Daniels was the hero who made it happen and that he is still proud of his role in bringing pro basketball to Philadelphia.

The aba teams is a basketball league that was formed in 1946. It merged with the NBA in 1976. Julius Erving praised an unheralded star as a central piece of the merger.

The NBA’s desire to combine with the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1976 was fueled by Julius Erving’s aerial acrobatics and increasing superstardom. While Dr. J was the driving force for the merger, others, like former Indiana Pacers star Mel Daniels, helped shape the NBA into what it is today.

After the merger, Daniels only played one season in the NBA. Nonetheless, as Erving pointed out, his dominance in the 1970s helped expand the ABA and made it a more attractive brand of basketball.

The ABA was founded by Julius Erving and Mel Daniels.

In an era dominated by NBA greats like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Elgin Baylor, the ABA was a young organization. However, Daniels and Dr. J contributed to the league’s increased interest.

With the New Mexico Lobos, Daniels was a standout player and All-American. After graduating from college, he was chosen ninth overall in the 1967 NBA Draft by the Cincinnati Royals, as well as being drafted by the ABA’s Minnesota Muskies. Daniels picked the Muskies over the NBA, making him the first NBA first-round selection to do so.

Daniels’ action may be said to have changed the direction of NBA history. He quickly rose to prominence in the ABA, appearing on seven straight All-Star teams and earning two MVP titles. The ABA’s prominence was boosted considerably by Daniels, and it was raised even more by Julius Erving.

Dr. J debuted in the ABA in 1971 and, like Daniels, chose not to play in the NBA after being drafted in the first round of the 1972 draft. Between 1974 and 1976, he was a huge star with the New Jersey Nets (then members of the ABA), earning two scoring championships and three consecutive MVP honors.

As the NBA pursued a merger, Erving was the fascinating, high-flying wing the league could sell. His on-court charisma and physical look, complete with a beautiful afro, made him a huge draw.

Daniels, one of the greatest rebounders and low-post players of his age, may not have had the same star power. Nonetheless, Erving cited him as a key driver of the merger.

Daniels, according to Dr. J, was an ABA “hero” who “defined an organization.”

Mel Daniels was the only player to win two ABA MVP honors, along with Julius Erving. 18.4 ppg and 14.9 rpg on average.

October 30, 2015 — HoopsHype (@hoopshype)

While Erving is remembered as the face of the ABA, Daniels has a stronger connection to an ABA team.

Daniels is still remembered as one of Indiana’s most famous athletes. He was the defining athlete in a basketball-crazy state, leading the Pacers to three ABA titles. Although Erving has a place in Nets history, he is most known for his time with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Following Daniels’ passing in 2015, Erving praised him as a Pacers icon. Big D, he said, was a pivotal character who helped legitimize the ABA.

“I believe he was the first person on the basketball floor to snarl. Mel was the hero of the story. He was the kind of person you could rely on night after night. He made the Pacers the most successful club in the American Basketball Association.”

-Julius Erving, through the Indianapolis Star, in 2015.

When he joined the Pacers in 1968, Daniels lost no time in becoming a legendary figure in Indiana. During the 1968-69 season, he was voted MVP. He guided the Pacers to an ABA title the following season.

Overall, Daniels left an incomparable legacy in Indiana. In six seasons with the Pacers, he averaged 19.4 points and 16.0 rebounds, earning two more championships in 1971 and 1972. After the merger, the Detroit native only played one season in the NBA. However, as a coach and subsequently as the team’s director of personnel, he added to his Pacers legacy.

Erving, on the other hand, took his celebrity to the NBA.

Julius Erving headed a group of ABA players that went on to play in the NBA.


Julius Coach Julius Erving of Tri-State is presented before to the game versus the Triplets at Atlantis Paradise Island during the BIG3 – Championship on September 04, 2021 in Nassau, Bahamas | Getty Images/Tim Nwachukwu

While NBA fans never saw the best of Daniels, they did get to see a lot of Julius Erving.

As a member of the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1980s, Dr. J established himself as one of the game’s most influential players. He was named to seven All-NBA teams and earned four MVP awards while leading the Sixers to a championship in 1983.

Other former ABA players, such as Erving’s Sixers colleague Moses Malone, started to make waves in the NBA. George “Iceman” Gervin, Rick Barry, and David Thompson were all named to numerous All-Star teams.

However, it’s hard to overlook the reality that all of those men profited from Daniels’ early success in the ABA, which was one of the driving forces for the 1976 merger.

Basketball Reference provided the statistics.

RELATED: Julius Erving Defends the Philadelphia 76ers’ Decision to Give Ben Simmons More Playing Time

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