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Retired basketball coach, Dan Issel, was born on October 25, 1948 in Batavia, Illinois.
Dan Issel played college basketball at the University of Kentucky under legendary coach Adolph Rupp. Issel was at UK 1966-1970 and scored 2,138 points (an average of 25.7 per game) while being named an All American for two of his three seasons there. (Freshmen were not eligible to play varsity basketball at the time.) On February 7, 1970, Issel scored 53 points in a 120-85 victory over Mississippi, breaking Cliff Hagan's single-game school record of 51.
Upon Issel's graduation in 1970 he was drafted by the Detroit Pistons of the NBA and the Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association (ABA). Issel signed to play basketball for the Colonels and the ABA. In his first season, Issel led the ABA in scoring with a scoring average of 29.9 points per game, and pulled down 13.2 rebounds per game. He was named the ABA Rookie of the year in 1971, and was selected to the All-ABA Second Team. The following season, Issel raised his scoring average to 30.6 points per game, made the All-ABA First Team, and was named MVP of the 1972 ABA All-Star Game.
In 1975, Issel won an ABA title with the Colonels, who also featured sharp-shooting guard (and fellow ex-Kentucky Wildcat) Louie Dampier, as well as 7-2 center Artis Gilmore. After the Colonels' championship season Issel was sold by the Colonels' owners to the short-lived Baltimore Claws franchise and ended up with the Denver Nuggets for the following season.
Issel remained with the Nuggets following the ABA-NBA merger in June 1976, and he represented Denver in the 1977 NBA All-Star Game. He continued playing through the 1984-1985 season, and received the NBA's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 1985 for his outstanding service to the community.
Issel accumulated over 27,000 points in his combined ABA and NBA career. At the time of his retirement the only professional basketball players to have scored more points than Issel were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Julius Erving.
After his playing career, Issel retired to a horse farm in Woodford County, Kentucky. He returned to the Nuggets as head coach in 1992 and led them to the playoffs in 1994. The Nuggets had only won 44 games in the previous two years, but Issel led them to their first winning record in four years. That year, the Nuggets pulled off the biggest upset to date in National Basketball Association (NBA) playoff history, knocking off the Seattle SuperSonics in five games. He retired three games into the 1995-96 season after facing criticism for his coaching style, saying he didn't like the person he'd become. He returned in 1998 as president and general manager, naming himself head coach again in December 1999, yielding his general manager's title to Kiki Vandeweghe.
Issel was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993. He was never considered a superstar and was never flashy. Instead he was an iron man with a smooth jump shot, an effective head fake, and an easy humor. Issel earned his place in NBA history by hustling and squeezing the most out of his talents.