Bill Daniels

Inducted 1998

FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, RACING

If Bill Daniels were 20 years younger, he would be right in there pitching among the high rollers circulating in the major sports team business.

It’s not that he feels that he missed much, and he is still a partner in the ownership of the Los Angeles Lakers. However, if he were younger, his competitive side wouldn’t allow him to just sit back and watch. “I don’t think I would change anything,” Daniels explained. “But if I were twenty years younger, of course, I’d still be involved. For example, I would want to own the Denver Broncos. But now I’m older and I have had a wonderful life. I’ve made my share of mistakes, and there were some big ones, but the good outnumbered the bad.”

It would take a lot of time to retrace the details. A complete list of both sides of the ledger would be lengthy. Why even try when the details of a string of events from the mid-1970’s leave everything else in the dust? “Any one of three things that happened would be the thrill of a lifetime.” Daniels admitted. “But when you tie them all together over a period of a year or a little more, it was incredible.”

Daniels’ big three started in Salt Lake City, when his first Utah Stars team won the American Basketball Association title. “I knew it was a tough business when I lost $400,000 that year,” Daniels remembered, “But winning the championship was unbelievable.”

Next came the inaugural big car race in Ontario, California. Daniels owned a car driven by Lloyd Ruby, who sat on the pole position as the cars lined up for the race. “We brought the car back to Denver and put it in the lobby of the Brown Palace Hotel,” Daniels continued.

Then, on May 16, 1975, Denver boxer Ron Lyle fought Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight championship of the world. “Ron had Ali beat until the 11th round,” Daniels explained. “Ron was a hell of a fighter and it was fun keeping up with his career.” A few years before the bout with Ali, Daniels had seen Lyle in the ring at the state penitentiary. Daniels recognized the promise and took Lyle under his wing when he was released.

While Daniels has never owned the Denver Broncos, he was an owner in professional football. He helped found the United States Football League, and when the league began to play, Daniels owned the Los Angeles Express.

Daniels was born in Greeley, Colorado. His travels took him elsewhere before taking up permanent residence in Denver in 1955.

While he noted most of his activities in sports were aimed at enhancing his pride and joy – the building of cable television into a major arm of sports media – Daniels became a prominent political force in the state, as well as a champion for a lot of important causes to his adopted city. One of his most significant efforts came during the election campaign that was asking taxpayers in the metropolitan area for an increase in sales tax to assure financing for a new baseball stadium. Daniels remembers a story in The Denver Post that told of the financial plight of the Colorado Baseball Commission. Daniels put up $100,000 and challenged the Denver business community to match his donation. “I know from experience that you don’t win an election without money,” Daniels explained “I know that the ballot issue wasn’t given much chance. But it takes a little courage. You just don’t lie down and play dead in life.”

Bill Daniels

I’m older and I have had a wonderful life. I’ve made my share of mistakes, and there were some big ones, but the good outnumbered the bad.