With the Denver Nuggets making their first-ever NBA Finals trip, I thought it was as good a time as any to come up with the top ten players in franchise history. The Nuggets glory years were in the ABA and that will show on this list.
Jones first heard of the American Basketball Association (ABA) after its establishment in 1967 and decided to play. According to reports, Jones called and wrote to every team in the league but only the Denver Rockets responded; with his sound jump shot Jones quickly became one of their significant contributors – earning three consecutive All-ABA appearances from 1967-1970 and scoring 52 points during a game – he became only player ever to record at least 2000 points during one season!
Simpson was an all-time great of the American Basketball Association franchise in Denver. After two years at Michigan State, he signed with Denver Rockets, where he made five All-Star appearances and averaged 27.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per season during the 1971-72 season – his best year with them!
Jones made an effortless transition from the American Basketball Association (ABA) to the NBA, earning regular awards during his four years there. For two seasons with the ABA he made All-Defensive team selection while later making NBA’s All-Defensive First Team for one more. Overall he made eight All-Defensive appearances.
The Nuggets drafted him with the No. 4 overall pick. The team needed a player to shore up the defense as the team ranked last in allowed points per game. Mutombo quickly became a fan favorite in 1992 when he developed his finger-wagging trademark after blocking an opponent’s shot. Those blocks piled up as his 1,486 are a Nuggets record. That included his strong rebounding, which had 4,811 rebounds which rank third. in Nuggets history.
Mutombo grew into the league’s best defensive player as the years progressed. Mutombo won the Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1995, averaging 11.0 points, 11.8 rebounds, and a career-high 4.5 blocks per game.
Lever is all over the all-time rankings for the Nuggets. That includes his 8,081 career points which rank sixth. His 3,621 rebounds are eighth, and he just snuck into playing the 10th most games. Where Lever stands, the highest is his 3,566 career assists, which rank second. He is one of three players to own more than 3,000 career assists.
With the Nuggets, Lever made two All-Star appearances. That included in 1988, when he averaged 18.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 7.8 assists. In 1990, he made another appearance by averaging 18.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 6.5 assists.
In his inaugural season with the team, they won 70 games and advanced to the American Basketball Association Finals under his leadership. He earned six All-Star selections while in the ABA; once in the NBA he made only one All-Star team; however, he continued as one of their greats by helping guide their postseason qualifying squad every year of play.
Issel ranks third in team history for games played, scoring the most points ever with 14,659. He currently ranks second on the all-time chart, boasting 1,804 assists and 698 steals during his time here.
Anthony transformed the team’s image, and the team was talked about nationally. Anthony made four All-NBA Teams because he was a dangerous scorer. Throughout the years, Anthony accumulated 13,970 career points that rank third all-time.
During that span, he averaged 20.0 points per game or more every year he played in Denver. That included 28.9 points during the 2006-07 season. He also averaged 28.2 points during the 2009-10 season. When it came to getting an automatic bucket, Anthony ranked among the best in the league, like Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki regarding modern-day scorers.
Thompson finished runner-up in the first-ever Slam Dunk Contest in the ABA. In 1976, Thompson was the team’s best scorer in the ABA Finals, where he averaged 28.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in a six-game series loss to the Nets, Which included a 42-point effort in Game 6.
The two leagues would combine, but it wouldn’t stop Thompson’s great play. In 1977-78, Thompson nearly won the scoring title. He scored 73 points in the season’s final game but would lose the title by a percentage point because Geroge Gervin scored 63 points in the final game. Thompson was so valued that the Nuggets signed him to a then-record contract extension that paid him $4 million over five years.
One of the greatest trades ever made by any team was when the Nuggets swapped out George McGinnis for future star Alex English. English quickly made an impactful debut averaging 23.8 points per game during his rookie campaign; two years later, he became an All-Star and All-NBA selection scoring 25.4 points per game and earned all-star honors and fourth in the scoring race! He claimed the scoring title in his third year alone with 28.4 average points per game.
English averaged 27.9 points during his fifth season; however, many recall it more for how it ended. English suffered an injured right thumb that required surgery during the playoffs. With his successful scoring performance that year and career-high 29.8 average scoring total (English is currently the only player to score over 21,000 career points – his 21 645 mark sets an excellent standard), English holds the team career points record and ranks fifth for blocks while third in steals as well!
This player is nowhere near done yet, and when he is done, he maybe considered one of the greatest ever to play the game. He already owns back-to-back MVP awards and looks destined to lead the Nuggets to their first-ever world championship.
If you enjoy hearing from the legends of pro sports, then be sure to tune into “The Grueling Truth” sports shows, “Where the legends speak”
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