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Denver Nuggets Miami Heat Game 5 NBA Finals

Source: Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images / Getty

Who would have thought that the Denver Nuggets, a team with someone who would have had sporadic success in their 47-year history would become the NBA Champions? Well on Monday, June 12th, history was made with Nikola Jokić, and Jamal Murray, and the Nuggets defeated the Miami Heat 94-89 and took the series 4-1 to take home the crowd in front of their fans at the Ball Arena in Denver. Did you know the Nuggets were one of the charter members of the NBA? The original Nuggets were founded in 1948-49, prior to the 1948–49 National Basketball League (NBL) season then the league merged with the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and renamed National Basketball Association.



The Nuggets played the 1949–50 season as one of the charter NBA teams before folding and their stats are separate from the current Nuggets team.

The Nuggets could have been in Kansas City. The upstart American Basketball Association (ABA) awarded a group in the Missouri city a franchise but they couldn’t find a suitable arena. The team found a home in Denver and was named the Larks after Colorado’s state bird. The original owners sold the team and renamed them the Rockets. The team would see some success in the ABA, including drafting Spencer Haywood, one of the first players to turn pro before graduating from college after the NBA refused to let him play in the league. In his only ABA season, Haywood averaged nearly 30 points and 19.5 rebounds per game and was ABA MVP, ABA rookie of the year.

When the ABA merged with the NBA in 1976, the Denver franchise was one of the teams invited to the league but it was only one problem: The Houston franchise was named the Rockets. After a fan vote, the team was renamed the Nuggets and the rest is history.

The team would struggle until in 1981, they hired Head Coach Doug Moe and with top scores Alex English and Kiki Vandeweghe, would go on to be one of the highest-scoring teams in the League. They would go to Western Conference Finals in 1984-85, losing to Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers.

More struggles would come until the team drafted center Dikembe Mutombo from Georgetown. The Nuggets became the first 8th-seeded team to defeat a 1st-seeded team in NBA playoff history when they defeated the Seattle Supersonics in 1994.

In 2003 the team drafted NCAA Champion Carmelo Anthony and the team returned to success but after a trade to NY, the team went back to its losing ways but after drafting future NBA MVP Jokić and Murray, the team set the foundation to win it’s first NBA championship.

So in honor of their victory, we spotlight some of the members of the Nuggets who walked before they could run to victory.


The article “These Former Denver Nuggets Walked So Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray Could Run” was created with the help of ChatGPT

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1. Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony Source:Getty

Carmelo Anthony was drafted by the Denver Nuggets with the 3rd overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. He played for the Nuggets for 7 seasons, during which time he established himself as one of the best scorers in the league. Anthony was a 6-time All-Star and won an Olympic gold medal with Team USA in 2008. He was traded to the New York Knicks in 2011 and currently plays for the Houston Rockets.

2. Dikembe Mutombo

Dikembe Mutombo Source:Getty

Dikembe Mutombo was drafted by the Denver Nuggets with the 4th overall pick in the 1991 NBA Draft. He played for the Nuggets for 5 seasons, during which time he established himself as one of the best defensive players in the league. Mutombo was a 4-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and 8-time All-Star. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.

3. Alex English

Alex English Source:Getty

Alex English was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 23rd overall pick in the 1976 NBA Draft. He was traded to the Denver Nuggets midway through his rookie season and went on to play 12 seasons for the team. English is the Nuggets’ all-time leading scorer, with 21,645 points. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997.

4. Dan Issel

Dan Issel Source:Getty

Dan Issel was drafted by the Detroit Pistons with the 11th overall pick in the 1970 NBA Draft. He was traded to the Baltimore Bullets midway through his rookie season and then to the Denver Nuggets prior to the 1972-73 season. Issel played 9 seasons for the Nuggets and is their all-time leading rebounder, with 8,063 rebounds. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

5. David Thompson

David Thompson Source:Getty

David Thompson was drafted by Atlanta Hawks with 1st overall pick 1974 NBA Draft but his rights were immediately traded to Denver Nuggets. He played for Denver for his entire career (9 seasons) and is considered one of the most electric dunkers ever, earning him the nickname “Skywalker”. In 1976, he became the first player ever to score 34 or more points in a single quarter when he scored 32 points in the 4th quarter against Detroit Pistons. His career ended abruptly due to cocaine addiction but he made a successful comeback and even played 3 games for Seattle SuperSonics at age 39 before finally retiring for good.

6. Fat Lever

Fat Lever Source:Getty

Fat Lever was drafted by Portland Trail Blazers with the 11th overall pick in the 1982 NBA Draft but his rights were immediately traded to the Denver Nuggets where he would spend the next 10 seasons of his career (1982-1992). He is the only player in franchise history to lead the team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals per game which he did during the 1986-87 season when he averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals per game while also being named to All-Star team that year; a truly remarkable feat that may never be matched again by any player not just limited to Denver Nuggets but any other NBA franchise as well. After leaving Nuggets, he played 1 season each for Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings before finally retiring from professional basketball at age 32 due to injuries suffered earlier in his career starting to take a toll on his body preventing him from playing at a high level anymore

7. Byron Beck

Byron Beck Source:Getty

Beck is the first player in the Denver franchise to have his jersey number (#40) retired

8. Kiki Vandeweghe

Kiki Vandeweghe Source:Getty

Kiki Vandeweghe had an impressive eight-year career with the Denver Nuggets, averaging over 20 points per game and making four All-Star appearances. He was a key contributor to the team’s success in the 1980s, helping them reach the playoffs five times during his tenure. His impact on basketball can still be felt today as he is remembered for his prolific scoring ability and consistent hustle on defense. Kiki Vandeweghe will always remain one of the most beloved figures in Denver sports history, and his legacy will live on through future generations of Nuggets fans who look back fondly at this legendary player from their past.

9. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf Source:Getty

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was a prolific scorer with the Denver Nuggets, averaging 18.2 points per game during his five year tenure with the team. He also led the Nuggets in assists, averaging 6.8 per game and setting franchise records in free throws made and free throws attempted.

10. Michael Adams

Michael Adams Source:Getty

The Denver Nuggets guard, Michael Adams, had a standout career during the late 80s and early 90s. During his five-year run with the Nuggets, Adams recorded career-high averages of 26.5 points, 10.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game in 1991-92.