So, what’s with the Denver Nuggets history? Well, the Mile-High City’s team, once called the Denver Larks, started out as a humble charter franchise in the ABA in 1967.
Though they have never won a league championship, either in the ABA or later in the NBA, they have put their share of historically important players out on the floor. A peek at the Denver Nuggets’ history shows a proud tradition of record-setters and quiet superstars.
The list of the best players in Denver Nuggets history is topped by forward Alex English. A prolific scorer, he averaged between 18 and 30 points per game during the 1980s, and by the end of those ten years in Denver, he was the team’s leading scorer of all time. His 25,613 points make him the 13th highest scorer on the NBA’s all-time list.
English was known for his laid-back personality; he never sought the spotlight, even though he was one of the greatest scorers of his time. Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997, English was also honored by Denver Nuggets, who retired his number 2 in 1992.
English was the first player to have eight consecutive seasons with at least 2,000 points, and he made the All-Star team eight seasons in a row as well, carrying the Nuggets to nine straight playoff appearances.
In the star-laden draft of 2003, forward Carmelo Anthony quickly emerged as the most understated of the big-ticket trio of himself, Dwayne Wade, and LeBron James. Since he was drafted as the third pick, the Nuggets have not missed the playoffs, and have won the division title twice.
Selected three times to the All-Star team, Anthony’s career averages per game are almost 25 points, six rebounds, and just over three assists. Though he has brought about his share of scandals and off-court antics, Anthony has settled into his role as the Nuggets’ now-veteran leader.
Dan Issel was a center/power forward who played with the Denver Nuggets from the 1976-77 season to the 1984-85 season. At the time of his retirement as a player, he was only bested by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Julius Erving in scoring, and today ranks eighth on the list.
Not long after his retirement, Issel returned to the Nuggets as a coach for six seasons, leading the team to the biggest playoff upset in NBA history against the Seattle SuperSonics, taking them down in five games. He was the first Nugget to be named to the NBA Hall of Fame, in 1993.
As solid an all-around player as the Nuggets ever drafted, guard/forward David Thompson was also a flashy dunker. He faced off against Julius Erving in the first ever Slam-Dunk Competition at the ABA All-Star games in 1976, and lost only because Erving performed the first known foul-line dunk.
Thompson also signed a record-breaking contract with the Nuggets in 1978 — $4 million over five years. However, though he was dogged by injury and substance abuse troubles for the next few years, he was eventually named to the Hall of Fame in 1996.
Center Dikembe Mutombo was the first player in Denver Nuggets history to be named to the NBA Rookie First Team, catching the attention of the league and its fans through his shot-blocking and defensive prowess.
Mutombo was never one for offense, only averaging 13 points over his five seasons with Denver, but he was a monster on the other end of the floor. He led the league in blocking in three seasons, and it was his 31 blocks over five games that helped the Issel-coached 1994 Nuggets to become the first eighth playoff seed to win a series.