Continuing on with the process of giving the top 5 players for each NBA franchise (in conjunction with the top ten voting organised by Hoops Manifesto), I found the Denver Nuggets to be the hardest thus far. Leaving off players of real quality: Dan Issel, Kiki Vandeweghe and Spencer Haywood – the Nuggets provided some tough decisions.
But here they are: my top five Denver Nuggets of all time.
5. Lafayette “Fat” Lever – Probably the best multi-faceted player to ever play for Denver, and with no disrespect to Chauncey Billups, the best point man to play in a Nuggets strip.
This point guard would never be considered a giant (he stood at 6′ 3″), but due to an uncanny knack of being in the right spot at the right time, he often lead the Nuggets in rebounding.
On January 7th, 1987 in a losing effort against the Chicago Bulls (96-100) Lever had the amazing stat-line of 31 points, 16 rebounds, 12 assists, 6 steals and a block.
4. Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo – Beginning his NBA career at the Nuggets, Dikembe Mutombo averaged nearly 13 points, 13 boards, and a whopping 3.8 blocks per game. Mutombo won the first of his four DPoY awards whilst wearing a Denver uniform, and of course – developed the famous finger-wag there.
His unparalleled defense puts him right up near the top of “greatest big men ever” – and a fitting place on Denver’s best 5 ever.
3. Carmelo Kiyan Anthony – Forget the rumours abounding about ‘Melo and a possible move to the Garden, he’s clearly one of the best to ever play in a Nuggets uniform (I actually think many will disagree with having him as low as #3). Anyway… Anthony has been the centerpiece of a Denver renaissance, and around him the Nuggets have built a team that has made the playoffs every single season.
There’s no question in my mind that Carmelo Anthony is one of the top 5 players in the league.
2. David O’Neil Thompson – David Thompson was Michael Jordan’s role model. For a player to have that status, he’s no doubt a phenomenal player. Possessing absolutely amazing leaping ability, “Skywalker” Thompson used the alley-oop as one of the mainstays of his offensive array. In his rookie season, Thompson won Rookie of the Year and took the Nuggets to their one and only (ABA) Finals. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996, David Thompson is probably best remembered for his 73 point game in the last game of the ’77-78 season.
1. Alexander English – Hall of Famer Alex English once said of his own game,
“It’s like being a willow tree that blows in the wind but it doesn’t break. It’s a strong branch, a strong tree that bends and can withstand all kinds of tornado-type winds but it doesn’t break. That is the kind of idea I played with.”
Once finding his place at Denver, English embarked on a decade-long scoring spree. In eleven seasons in Colorado, Alex English averaged 25.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.4 assists, and is still the all-time leader in Nuggets scoring.
Described as ‘graceful, elegant’, English’s #2 jersey was retired by Denver in 1992, a mere year after his retirement.