Mel Daniels, the Hall of Fame center who led the Indiana Pacers to three American Basketball Association championships and became the leading rebounder in the league’s history, died Friday in Sheridan, Ind. He was 71.
His death, which was announced by the Pacers, came the day after he attended their season’s home opener. The cause was not given, but he had heart problems and had been hospitalized in October.
At 6 feet 9 inches and 220 pounds, Daniels was an intimidating presence on defense, a fierce rebounder, and loath to pass up a fight, though he had a sensitive side, having written thousands of unpublished poems. He possessed a nearly unstoppable fadeaway jump shot.
Daniels was the A.B.A.’s rookie of the year in 1967-68 with the Minnesota Muskies, having signed with the fledgling league despite being selected by the Cincinnati Royals in the first…