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Some players earn fancy nicknames just on reputation, Dan Issel earned his on blood, sweat and tears. During his era, Dan Issel, nicknamed "The Horse," was the hardest working man in professional basketball. A 15-year veteran of both the ABA and NBA, Issel played in 1,218 of 1,242 possible games, a consistency streak rivaled by few. If you asked Dan Issel to evaluate his own career, points, rebounds, blocks and steals wouldn't be mentioned. Durability and an old-fashioned blue-collar work ethic would be his calling card. Dan Issel embarked on professional basketball career with a vengeance following a brilliant scholastic and collegiate career. The Batavia, IL, native earned All-America honors on both the high school (Batavia H.S.) and college (Kentucky) levels. He set several school records and averaged 33.9 ppg as a senior while playing for Hall of Fame Coach Adolph Rupp.
Issel's first five professional years were spent with the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA. As a rookie with the Colonels in 1971, Issel led the ABA in scoring (29.9 ppg), and was named Rookie of the Year. He was named MVP of the ABA All-Star Game in 1972 and led the Colonels to the 1975 championship. Issel became a Denver Nugget in 1975, and played 10 seasons in Denver. Issel, who coached the Nuggets from 1992 to 1995 (34 games in the 1994-95 season), compiled a 96-102 record, a mark that included an improbable first round upset of the top-seeded Seattle Supersonics in the 1994 playoffs.
One of the most prolific scorers in basketball history, at the time of his retirement, Issel ranked fifth in the combined ABA/NBA all-time scoring list with 27,482 points, a 22.6 ppg average. He trailed only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, fellow Hall of Fame 1993 classmate Julius Erving, and Moses Malone in points scored. In 1985, the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America presented Issel with the J. Walter Kennedy Award for community service.
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