I don’t smoke tweeds, but I grew up much closer to the greenery than just listening to The Chronic and Cypress Hill. So while 4/20 is more significant to me because the new season of “Deadliest Warrior” debuts tonight, I understand the importance of the stoner’s holiday.
According to some of my more laid-back colleagues, “nuggets” is a term commonly associated with 4/20. You can probably guess why. So with that, here are my 10 favorite Denver Nuggets of the past 25 years:
10. Tim Hardaway — I can’t confirm this, but I think the Nuggets hold the record for employing the most players since their NBA debut in 1976. Go through their archives, and you’ll find a bunch of notables who spent one year or less in Denver (another nod to 4/20: Lack of attention span/commitment). Hardaway would be the best representative of this for me. He only played 14 games with the Nuggets at the tail-end of his career, putting up 9.6 points and 5.5 assists, but he’s still Tim Bug.
9. Jalen Rose — One of my favorite college players of all-time spent the first two years of his pro career in Denver. This was of course after he broke out the greatest NBA Draft suit ever. Jalen’s influence is still seen in the League today: Ask any young player who grew up in Detroit or is left-handed, and they’ll probably tell you Jalen was one of their idols.
8. Antonio McDyess — Twice in his career McDyess cracked 20-and-10 averages, both times with Denver. Now that he’s a ground-bound role player shooting baseline jumpers, some might forget that McDyess was one of the most explosive power forwards to ever hit the League. Athletically, ‘Dyess might have been a notch below Shawn Kemp, but it wasn’t a big notch.
7. Alex English — You think it’s incredible how Kobe Bryant keeps getting buckets at his age? English had his best scoring campaign when he was 32 years old, dropping 29.8 points per game on 50 percent shooting in ’85-86. And he only attempted five three-pointers the entire season. Automatic buckets on the wing.
6. Nick Van Exel — The most ‘hood dude to ever come out of Kenosha, Wisconsin, “Nick the Quick” spent three and a half years in Denver, and along with McDyess carried the franchise through the lean post-Mutombo, pre-Carmelo era. The year before Van Exel got there, the Nuggets went 11-71. The year after he left, they went 17-65. So does that mean he was the lefty version of Sam Cassell?
5. Allen Iverson — Another short-term rental, A.I.’s tenure with the Nuggets has been somewhat underrated. Did he help the team get past the first round of the playoffs? No. But in his only full season with the team Iverson averaged 26.4 points per game, third in the League in scoring, and put up some of the best assist numbers of his career. In fact, that was really A.I.’s last great season.
4. Carmelo Anthony — The new Alex English. If ‘Melo is not the best pure scorer in the NBA today, he’s at least heavy in the discussion. And now between last year’s run to the Western Conference Finals and averaging 37.5 points in the first two playoff games this year, he’s becoming a bona fide postseason monster.
3. Chauncey Billups — It wasn’t until Chauncey’s second go-round with the Nuggets that I truly began to appreciate his game. Among the League’s current superstar PG’s Chauncey and Tony Parker are the only ones with championship rings and Finals MVP’s under their belt. The homegrown son of Denver was already a legend in his hometown before he lead this latest Nuggets resurgence.
2. Dikembe Mutombo — As a Sonics fan, the image of Mutombo laying on his back on our court holding the basketball after pulling off Denver’s historic 8-versus-1 playoff upset will always be burned in my memory. But the highlight reel doesn’t show how thoroughly Mutombo dominated that series.
1. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf — On NBA Jam, my favorite team to use was the Nuggets, with Abdul-Rauf raining threes and Mutombo cleaning up the rare misses. In real-life, Mahmoud’s game, his back story, and his convictions were admirable to me growing up, and still are to this day. It’s too bad that to the mainstream public, his politics will always overshadow his talent.
Honorable mention: Darvin Ham, Reggie Williams, Michael Adams, Kenyon Martin, Fat Lever, Robert Pack