The Denver Nuggets have had a plethora of talented players donning their uniform, ranging from Kiki Vandeweghe to Allen Iverson, but who are the five greatest Nuggets to ever play in the Mile High City?
First, there is an honorable mention, as I had a gut-wrenching time leaving this player off of the list. That person is Fat Lever, a heavily underrated player whom I have dubbed “Denver’s Magic Johnson” as he nearly averaged a triple-double in the 1988-89 season with 19.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game. In one incredible game in 1988, Fat scored 31 points, 16 rebounds, 12 assists, and six steals.
Now, to the top five Nuggets to ever grace Denver with their prowess:
5. Dikembe Mutombo 1991 – 1996
Mutombo was a centerpiece in Denver for five years, in which his image is embedded on one of the greatest videos of all-time — he fell to the floor after the #8 Nuggets upset the #1 Seattle SuperSonics in the 1994 playoffs — Mutombo is the greatest defensive giant that has ever worn a Nuggets jersey.
That aforementioned upset was the first time ever an eighth seed team upset a first seed team in the NBA. He appeared in three All-Star games and won his initial Defensive Player of the Year award in Denver. In addition, he’s the franchise-leader of blocked shots (3.8 BPG), led the league in blocked shots for the three years he was in Denver, and is second all-time for the entire league.
4. Carmelo Anthony 2003-2011
Anthony is one of the greatest Nuggets to ever play in the 5-2-8-0, and I know several Nuggets fans are seething with anger at this very moment, but he did plenty for Denver that may be hard to recognize. This may be throwing salt in their recovering wounds, but Anthony revitalized the league laughingstock that was Denver, to a playoff team every season after his rookie year; this speaks volumes in terms of his role with Denver besides the “MeloDrama.”
Anthony is one of elite scorers in the league, love him or hate him, he can score buckets. Unfortunately, he wanted to score buckets under the bright lights of another team.
During his tenure in Denver, he appeared in four All-Star games, and there were times in which many thought he should have received awards that went to LeBron James. Moreover, Anthony is the third leading scorer for the franchise and cemented himself in Denver’s history books.
3. Dan Issel 1975-1985
Issel began playing with the Nuggets right before Denver merged from the ABA (American Basketball Association) with the NBA. While he was only in two All-Star games — one while Denver was in the ABA and the other in the NBA — his jersey is up in the rafters at the Pepsi Center.
Issel is also a Hall of Famer, the first Nugget to receive such an honor. Also, he is the second all-time scorer and is the all-time rebounding leader with 8.3 rebounds per game.
2. David Thompson 1975-1982
In Thompson’s first season with the Nuggets, he was named Rookie of the Year and took the Nuggets to the ABA Finals, their only Finals appearance in either league.
Thompson excited Nuggets fans for seven years with his energetic antics as he had three All-Star appearances, one ABA All-Star appearance, two All-NBA appearances, and one appearance in the All-ABA team. Much like his teammate, he is a Hall of Famer, but is best known for his 73-point performance in 1978 against the Detroit Pistons.
1. Alex English 1980-1990
English was the first player to obtain eight consecutive seasons with 2,000 plus points. His stat line with Denver looked like this: 25.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. Another selling point for English is his franchise accomplishments upon retiring as he lead Denver points, assists, offensive rebounds, games, minutes played, and field goals made and attempted. Basically, Issel and Mutombo didn’t own, English did.
Let’s not forget about his eight All-Star appearances, and three All-NBA appearances meshed with leading the league in total points two times while in Denver. Not to mention the 20,000 plus points English scored while being a Nugget and thus his jersey is retired by Denver.
Alex English represented 80’s basketball — complete with skyline jersey — the most prolific scorer of that generation.
His statistical line speaks for itself: 10 out of 11 seasons in Denver, he averaged 21 plus points a game. The kicker? Eight out of 11 seasons he shot 25 plus points a match. ASTOUNDING. Team perspective: he aided Denver into 9 CONSECUTIVE playoff appearances, 2 Midwestern Division Titles, and the 1985 WCF.
Alex English had one motto and that sums up this list of the greatest Nuggets and that is ‘Ball don’t lie’.