denver nuggets aba logo

Top Ten Denver Nuggets of All-Time

We’ve hit the dog days of the NBA summer.  All the big name free agents have been snatched up.  Summer league is over.  Training camps are still months away.  So, now is the perfect time to reminisce a bit.  The Hoops Manifesto has gathered together a stellar collection of Bloguin basketball writers to determine the top ten players all-time for each of the 30 NBA franchises.  Next up: the Denver Nuggets (nee Denver Rockets).

Voting panel: Jeff Fox from The Hoops Manifesto, College Wolf from the TWolves Blog, Don from With Malice, Philip from Orlando Magic Daily and Sean from Hoop Heads North.

10) Danny Schayes – Denver Nuggets – 1983- 1990

Denver accomplishments:

– NBA leader in games played in 1983/84

“I can’t believe the voters are making me include Danny Schayes in this list.  In fairness, he was pretty good for the Nuggets, even putting up 14 points and eight boards a game one season.” – Jeff Fox

9) Marcus Camby – Denver Nuggets – 2002 – 2008


Denver accomplishments:

– NBA leader in blocks in 2004/05, 2006/07 & 2007/08
– NBA leader in blocks per game in 2005/06, 2006/07 & 2007/08
– NBA Defensive Player of the Year
– four-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection
– eighth all-time in blocks per game in the NBA

“One of the most underrated players in the NBA today, who enjoyed the best seasons of his career in Denver.  How has this man not made an All-Star team?” – Jeff Fox

8) Kiki Vandeweghe – Denver Nuggets – 1980 – 1984

Denver accomplishments:

– two-time NBA All-Star

“Back when I used to play basketball, as opposed to now when I sit on my butt and comment on basketball, my brother and I used to practice Kiki Vandeweghe’s step-back jumper.  Which tells you two things: 1) Kiki was a very good player in his day and 2) I’m really, really old.” – Jeff Fox

7) Fat Lever – Denver Nuggets – 1984 – 1990

Denver accomplishments:

– Denver all-time leader in steals
– fifth all-time in steals per game in the NBA
– NBA leader in games played in 1984/85 & 1986/87
– two-time NBA All-Star
– one-time All-NBA selection
– one-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection

“The ultimate in false advertising – Fat Lever was neither fat nor a lever, rather he was a slick point guard.” – Jeff Fox

“Stellar numbers as a Denver Nugget in his career. Averaged close to a triple-double in the 1988-89 season (19.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 7.9 apg).” – Sean

“Probably the best multifaceted 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, six steals and a block.” – Don

6) Byron Beck – Denver Rockets/Nuggets – 1967 – 1977

Denver accomplishments:

– jersey number (40) retired by Denver
– ABA leader in games played in 1974/75
– two-time ABA All-Star
– second all-time in games played in the ABA
– eigth all-time in rebounds in the ABA

“Spanned both the ABA & NBA. He was the 1st player to have his number retired by the Denver Nuggets.” – Sean

5) Dikembe Mutombo – Denver Nuggets – 1991 – 1996

Denver accomplishments:

– Denver’s all-time blocked shots leader
– second all-time in blocked shots in the NBA
– ninth all-time in defensive rebounds in the NBA
– 10th all-time in offensive rebounds in the NBA
– seventh all-time in blocks per game in the NBA
– NBA leader in games played in 1993/94 & 1994/95
– NBA leader in total rebounds in 1994/95
– NBA leader in blocks in 1993/94, 1994/95 & 1995/96
– NBA leader in blocks per game in 1993/94, 1994/95 & 1995/96
– three-time NBA All-Star
– NBA Defensive Player of the Year
– NBA All-Rookie Team
– NBA All-Defensive Team

“Beginning his NBA career with 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 five ever.” – Don

“Mt. Mutombo began waving his finger menacingly and claiming ownership of the paint in the 1990s in the Mile High City. He had some of his best seasons in his first five years of his career – plus an iconic celebration after the Nuggets upset the Sonics in 1994.” – Philip

4) Carmelo Anthony – Denver Nuggets – 2003 – present

Denver accomplishments:

– three-time NBA All-Star
– three-time All-NBA selection
– NBA All-Rookie Team

“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 five players in the league.” –  Don 

“If he re-signs with Denver, should quite possibly end up number one on this list when all is said and done.” – College Wolf

3) Dan Issel – Denver Nuggets – 1975 – 1985

Denver accomplishments:

– Hall of Fame
– jersey number (44) retired by Denver
– Denver career-leader in free throws (made & attempted) and defensive & total rebounds
– one-time ABA All-Star
– one-time NBA All-Star
– one-time All-ABA Team
– second all-time in field goals made in the ABA
– fourth all-time in free throws made in the ABA
– ninth all-time in free throws made in NBA & ABA combined
– third all-time in field goals attempted in the ABA
– fifth all-time in free throws attempted in the ABA
– fifth all-time in offensive rebounds in the ABA
– sixth all-time in defensive rebounds in the ABA
– sixth all-time in total rebounds in the ABA
– fourth all-time in minutes per game in the ABA
– second all-time in points scored in the ABA
– eighth all-time in points scored in NBA & ABA combined

“One of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players. He also coached the 1994 Denver Nuggets to an NBA first, an #8 seed upsetting a #1 seed in the first round of the 1994 playoffs.” – Sean

“Issel was already putting up prolific scoring numbers when he arrived in Denver after the Kentucky Colonels folded and the Nuggets began to move to the NBA. Issel never quite matched his career-best 30.6 points per game from his second season, but continued to score and score and score once the merger happened. Not that Denver was much of a team to begin with (no one, and I mean just about NO ONE played defense in the ABA), but Issel softened the blow of David Thompson’s injuries.” – Philip

2) David Thompson – Denver Nuggets – 1975 – 1982

david thompson denver dunk

Denver accomplishments:

– Hall of Fame
– jersey number (33) retired by Denver
– NBA leader in free throws attempted in 1976/77
– one-time ABA All-Star
– three-time NBA All-Star
– ABA Rookie of the Year
– one-time All-ABA Team
– two-time All-NBA Team

“The say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let the above picture sum up my feelings about David Thompson” – Jeff Fox

“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.” – Don 

“Michael Jordan chose him to be the one to bring him into the Hall. Says it all for me.” – Sean

“Thompson was the young Jordan before Jordan played basketball. He averaged 22.7 points per game in his career and 24.1 points per game in seven years in Denver. Thompson was the first real crossover star (even though he does not get the same legendary memory given to Dr. J). If Thompson had not succumbed to a vicious knee injury, his career might have been more celebrated.” – Philip

1) Alex English – Denver Nuggets – 1980 – 1990


Denver accomplishments:

– Hall of Fame
– jersey number (2) retired by Denver
– Denver all-time leader in games & minutes played, field goals (made & attempted), offensive rebounds, assists and points
– NBA leader in games played in 1983/84, 1986/87 & 1988/89
– NBA leader in field goals made in 1982/83, 1984/85 & 1985/86
– NBA leader in field goals attempted in 1982/83 & 1988/89
– NBA leader in points scored in 1982/83 & 1985/86
– NBA leader in points per game in 1982/83
– eighth all-time in field goals (made & attempted) in the NBA
– eight-time NBA All-Star
– three-time All-NBA selection

“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.” – Don 

“Was too young to ever see him play, but the stats don’t lie.  Nearly 22,000 career points on one team is damn impressive.” – College Wolf

Previous franchises done: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas.

About Jeff Fox

Jeff Fox is Mr. Manifesto - the Supreme Leader and evil mind behind The Hoops Manifesto, The MMA Manifesto, & A Dry Heat.