Daniels packs knockout punch as a poet

  • Pacers
  • Mel Daniels is a study in contradictions. He was in more fights than any player in Pacers history, and has written more poems, too. His life is much like that of David West, and their personalities aren’t that far apart, either. Nor were their games.

    This story was written just a couple of weeks before Daniels passed away. He called me to say thanks for it, and that was the last conversation we ever had. It’s always a bit awkward when someone thanks you for writing something about them because it makes that article seem more promotional than journalistic. But it was good to have that talk with Daniels. One of the primary things we talked about was how to go about getting Freddie Lewis’ jersey number retired.  

    (c) 2015 Pacers.com. Reprinted by permission.

    The greatest enforcer the Pacers have ever had, the guy who seemed to have more fights during the late Sixties and early Seventies on basketball courts than Muhammad Ali had in boxing rings, is sitting in the corner booth of a restaurant reading poetry to me.

    They are gentle, heartfelt poems on a wide variety of subjects. Living in a senior community … a retired athlete reflecting on his glory days … a young athlete trying to please his father … the love between a father and daughter … athletes and their money … older women.

    It seems incongruous, this 6-foot-9 Hall of Famer with the vice-grip handshake reflecting on such tender topics with such sincerity. That is, unless you get to know him. And then it makes perfect sense that this bare-fisted brawler has written, by his estimation, at least 20,000 poems.

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