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The Denver Nuggets are a professional basketball team based in Denvermarker, Coloradomarker. They play in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Franchise history

Early years

The Denver Nuggets emerged from the original, most western team (Waterloo Hawks) the 1948–49 Denver Nuggets in the NBA The pioneering Nuggets team was the first team to charter a plane. The inaugural Nuggets season (11–51) was shared with the NBA. Then came the Denver Rockets (who were previously called the Denver Larks), a charter franchise in the American Basketball Association founded in 1967. The Rockets tended to struggle in the postseason early and failed to play in a championship game. They had a solid lineup led by Byron Beck and Larry Jones, then later by Beck and Ralph Simpson. Controversial rookie Spencer Haywood joined the team for the 1969–70 season. Haywood was one of the first players to turn pro before graduating from college, and the NBA initially refused to let him play in the league. Haywood averaged nearly 30 points and 20 rebounds per game in his only ABA season, then breached his Denver contract by signing with the Seattle SuperSonics and jumping to the NBA.
Denver Rockets (1967–1974)

In 1974, in anticipation of moving into the NBA, the franchise held a contest to choose a new team nickname, as Rockets was already in use by the Houston Rockets. The name Nuggets won, having been the nickname first used by the Denver 1949–50 NBA franchise. Their new logo was a miner "discovering" an ABA ball.

With the drafting and signing of David Thompson and Marvin Webster and the acquisitions of Dan Issel and Bobby Jones and with Larry Brown coaching, they had their best seasons in team history in their first two seasons as the Nuggets, with the team making the ABA finals in 1975–76. They would get no second chance to win an ABA league championship, as the ABA-NBA merger took place after the 1975–76 season. The Nuggets were one of four ABA teams taken into the NBA, along with the New York Nets, San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers for the 1976–77 NBA season. The Nuggets and Nets had actually applied to join the NBA in 1975, but were forced to stay in the ABA by a court order.

The Nuggets continued their strong play early on in the NBA, as they won division titles in their first two seasons in the league, and missed a third by a single game. However, neither of these teams was ultimately successful in the postseason.


Classic "Rainbow" logo (1982–1993)
Brown left the team in 1979, helping usher in a brief decline in their team's performance. It ended in 1981, when they hired Doug Moe as a head coach. Moe brought with him a "motion offense" philosophy, a style of play focusing on attempting to move the ball until someone got open. Moe was not as considerate to defense as some other coaches. The offense helped the team become highly competitive. During the 1980s, the Nuggets would often score in excess of 115 points a game, and during the 1981–82 season, they scored at least 100 points in every game—136 consecutive games (NBA record). During the 1981–82 season the Denver Nuggets set the league scoring record for the highest average points per game at 126.5 points.

Anchored by scoring machines Alex English and Kiki Vandeweghe at the two forward spots, Denver led the league in scoring, with English and Vandeweghe both averaging above 25 points per game. It was a novel strategy, allowing the Nuggets to top the Midwest Division and qualify for the playoffs during that span. (On December 13, 1983, the Nuggets and the visiting Detroit Pistons combined for an NBA record 370 points, with Detroit winning in triple overtime, 186–184.) In 1984–85, they made it to the Western Conference finals after being perennial playoff contenders, and they lost in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers. Vandeweghe was traded before the 1984–85 season to the Portland Trail Blazers for 6–3 rebounding guard Lafayette "Fat" Lever, undersized power forward Calvin Natt and center Wayne Cooper. Spearheaded by English and supported by the three new acquisitions and defensive specialists Bill Hanzlik and TR Dunn, the team replicated its success in the Western Conference despite the loss of Vandeweghe. They even managed to win a franchise-record 54 wins in the 1987-88 season. However, the Dallas Mavericks eliminated the Nuggets in the second round of the 1988 NBA Playoffs.


Moe left the team in 1990, and was replaced by Paul Westhead. Westhead also believed in a "run and gun" style of play, and gave the green light for players like Michael Adams and Chris Jackson to light up the scoreboards within seconds of possession.

However, Westhead cared even less about defense than Moe. As a result, the Nuggets gave up points almost as fast as they scored points. They finished with the worst record in the league for two seasons in a row, despite setting many scoring records.

Denver took a positive step in rebuilding by drafting 7–2 Georgetown Universitymarker center Dikembe Mutombo in 1992. Mutombo would have a successful rookie year, finishing runner-up to Larry Johnson for the NBA rookie of the year that season. Denver finished 24–58 that year.

Denver fired Westhead prior to the 1992–93 season and hired ABA legend and former Nugget Player Dan Issel. The Nuggets had two lottery picks that year and drafted University of Notre Damemarker forward LaPhonso Ellis and University of Virginiamarker guard Bryant Stith. Denver improved to 36–46, just missing the playoffs that year.

Denver ditched their rainbow colors for a dark navy, metallic gold and wine color scheme starting in the 1993–94 season. Led by Mutombo, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (who changed his name from Chris Jackson prior to the season), and Ellis, Denver would finish with its first winning season since the Doug Moe era at 42–40. Denver clinched the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoffs, playing the first place Seattle SuperSonics. Denver was a heavy underdog, having only a couple of players on their roster with actual NBA playoff experience. After dropping the first two games of the five-game set in Seattlemarker, the series returned to Denver. Denver won both games and tied the series at two games apiece. The Nuggets would make NBA history in Game 5, upsetting Seattle in overtime 98–94. They became the first 8th-seeded team to defeat a 1st-seeded team in NBA playoff history. Denver would almost do the same in the next round, falling to the Utah Jazz in game seven of the second round.

Denver acquired Sonics sharp-shooter Dale Ellis in the off-season and drafted University of Michiganmarker phenom Jalen Rose. Denver would struggle, causing Issel to resign as coach partway into the season. Assistant Coach Gene Littles would assume control for a brief period before relinquishing control to general manager Bernie Bickerstaff. Denver would rebound and get the 8th seed again in the playoffs, finishing 41–41. The Nuggets were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs that season.

Following that season, Denver would acquire Antonio McDyess in a draft day trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. McDyess would be the face of the franchise for the next few years, as Mutombo would leave after the 1995–96 season for the Atlanta Hawks, Ellis would miss the majority of the next few seasons due to recurring knee and leg injuries, and Abdul-Rauf was traded to the Sacramento Kings prior to the 1996–97 season.

Denver flirted with history in the 1997–98, by nearly setting the mark for fewest wins in an 82 game season (11). They would tie the NBA's all-time worst single-season losing streak at 23 games—only one game shy of the overall worst mark of 24 by the Cleveland Cavaliers of the early 1980s. Several years later, the Nuggets tied for the worst record in the NBA in 2002–03, also with the Cavaliers.

2000s: The Carmelo Anthony era


Logo from 2003–08; royal blue changed to navy blue in 2009
The Nuggets have never missed the playoffs after drafting Carmelo Anthony
2003, the Nuggets drafted future All-Star Carmelo Anthony with the third overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. That same year, the team also updated their logos and uniforms, with a new color scheme of powder blue, gold and royal blue; the latter color was changed to navy blue in 2009. In just two months of the season,the Nuggets recorded more wins than they had in 5½ months of play in 2002–03. Much of the reason for this incredible turnaround were the front-office moves of General Manager Kiki Vandeweghe, a former Nuggets player who assumed General Manager duties on August 9, 2001.

On December 28, 2004, head coach Jeff Bzdelik was fired from the organization and replaced by interim coach, former Los Angeles Laker player and Los Angeles Sparks head coach Michael Cooper. The Nuggets later hired George Karl as a permanent replacement. Karl led the team to a record of 32–8 in the second half of the regular season, which vaulted the team into the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

In the playoffs, however, the Nuggets could not survive the San Antonio Spurs. After winning game one in San Antoniomarker, the Nuggets proceeded to lose the next four games and lost the series 4–1. The Nuggets picked 20th in the 2005 NBA Draft; it was acquired from the Washington Wizards via the Orlando Magic. Denver selected Julius Hodge with the pick. The Nuggets also had the 22nd overall selection in the draft, in which they selected Jarrett Jack, but sent him to the Portland Trail Blazers for rights to Portland's 27th overall pick, Linas Kleiza.

In 2005–06, for the first time in 18 years, the club won the Northwest division title. This placed the team in the third seed of the Western Conference playoffs. Denver played the Los Angeles Clippers who, despite their 6th seeding, had a better regular-season record. As a result, the Clippers received home court advantage. They defeated the Nuggets in 5 games. Shortly after, the Nuggets announced that General Manager Kiki Vandeweghe's contract would not be renewed. He was replaced by Mark Warkentien.

On December 18, 2006, team co-captain Carmelo Anthony, shooting guard J.R. Smith and power forward Nenê were suspended by the NBA (15, 10 and one games respectively) for a fight that occurred in the last two minutes of a game against the New York Knicks two days earlier. The fight was sparked by Knicks rookie Mardy Collins, when he tackled J.R. Smith on a breakaway layup. According to Anthony, Knicks coach Isiah Thomas warned him to not go in the paint shortly before the hard foul.

2006–2008: Iverson and Anthony

On December 19, 2006, the Nuggets traded Joe Smith, Andre Miller and two first-round draft picks of the 2007 NBA Draft to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ivan McFarlin and superstar Allen Iverson (McFarlin was waived immediately following the trade's approval). The moves gave the Nuggets the top two scorers in the league at the time in Anthony and Iverson, who were both scoring over 30 points per game at the time of the trade. On January 11, 2007, Earl Boykins, Julius Hodge and cash considerations were traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, in exchange for point guard Steve Blake. With AI, many considered the Nuggets as one of the elite in the West, alongside the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs. However, chemistry would be an issue, as the Nuggets finished the regular season with the #6 seed, giving them a first round matchup with the San Antonio Spurs. In the playoffs, the Nuggets got off to a fast start, winning game 1, taking home court advantage away from the Spurs. However, in an eerie repeat of the 2005 playoffs, the Spurs bounced back to win the next four, as the Nuggets were eliminated in the first round in five games for the fourth straight year.

On March 16, 2008, the Nuggets scored 168 points in a 168–116 home win over Seattle SuperSonics. It was the third-most points scored for a regulation game in NBA history (The Nuggets and the Pistons hold the spot for most combined points scored in a game which was over 360 points total.)

The Nuggets finished the 2007–08 NBA season with exactly 50 wins as well as finishing the first half of that season 25–16 (50–32 overall record, tied for the third-best all-time Nuggets record since the team officially joined the NBA in 1976), following a 120–111 home victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in the last game of the season. It was the first time since the 1987–88 NBA season that the Nuggets finished with at least 50 wins in a season. Denver ended up as the 8th seed in the Western Conference of the 2008 NBA Playoffs, and their 50 wins marked the highest win total for an 8th seed in NBA history. It also meant that for the first time in NBA history, all eight playoff seeds in a conference had at least 50 wins. The Nuggets faced the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers (57–25 overall record) in the first round of the 2008 NBA Playoffs. The seven games separating the Nuggets overall record and the Lakers overall record is the closest margin between an eighth seed and a top seed since the NBA went to a 16-team playoff format in 1983–84. The Lakers swept the Nuggets in four games, marking the second time in NBA history that a 50-win team was swept in a best-of-seven playoff series in the first round.

2008–present: the return of Chauncey Billups

On July 16, at the end of the 2007–08 NBA season, the Nuggets traded former NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Camby to the Los Angeles Clippers for a second-round draft pick (that was then traded to the New York Knicks for Renaldo Balkman), which was often criticized by fans. This trade was to reduce the Nuggets' payroll costs.

On November 3, 2008, guard Allen Iverson was traded to the Detroit Pistons for Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess, and Cheikh Samb (part of the trade exception was used from the Marcus Camby trade to allow the deal to go through). McDyess was waived though on November 10, 2008, and he returned to Detroit shortly afterwards.

With Carmelo Anthony averaging 22.8 ppg and Billups averaging 6.4 assists in the 2008–09 NBA season, the Nuggets accomplished a great number of franchise milestones. Their 54–28 record matched the most wins the franchise had gotten since their induction in the NBA; their 27–14 start was also a record for wins in the first half of a season. This also marked the first time in the franchise's history the team had back-to-back 50-win seasons. They led the Northwest division for much of the season, eventually winning the division and placing #2 in the Western Conference, matching the highest the team has ever been seeded for the playoffs. General Manager Mark Warkentien won the NBA Executive of the Year Award for the Nuggets' improvement. They won Game 1 of the playoffs in a blowout victory against the New Orleans Hornets on April 19, 2009, the first time they had home-court advantage since 1988 and also, the 29-point victory was the largest victory for any team for Game 1 of the First Round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs. Chauncey Billups set a Nuggets franchise record with the most three-pointers in a playoff game with 8, and his 19 three-pointers in total is also a Nuggets record for threes made in a playoff series. They went on to beat the Hornets in five games, including a 58-point victory in Game 4 which matched the biggest playoff victory in NBA history. They then went on to beat the #6 seed Dallas Mavericks 4 games to 1 in the Conference Semifinals to make their first trip to the Western Conference Finals since 1985. That was also the first time the Nuggets have ever led 3-0 in a best-of-seven series. Up to that point, they held an NBA Playoffs-high in 3-pointers made and a 16-point average margin of victory, the largest average margin of victory in the first 10 playoff games in NBA Playoff History. They lost the first game of the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers but won the second game to tie the series 1-1. Carmelo Anthony became the first Denver player to score at least 30 points in five consecutive playoff games since the Nuggets joined the NBA in 1976. They lost the series 4-2, ending Denver's longest playoff run in team history.

In 2009 NBA Draft, the Nuggets traded a first round draft pick acquired from the Charlotte Bobcats to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the rights to rookie Ty Lawson who was drafted 18th overall. On July 13, 2009, the Nuggets traded a 2nd round draft pick to the Detroit Pistons for Arron Afflalo (part of the trade exception from the Iverson trade was used to allow the deal to go through) and Walter Sharpe. Afflalo replaces starting guard Dahntay Jones who signed with the Indiana Pacers. However, on August 10, the Nuggets lost forward Linas Kleiza who signed with the Olympiacos Piraeus of the Greek League.

In the opening two games of the 2009-10 season, Carmelo Anthony totaled 71 points, scoring 30 points in the home opener and 41 the next night, in wins against division rivals Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers, respectively. Anthony became one of five players in the Nuggets' history to open with 60 or more points through two games. It was also the only second time since 1987 that the Nuggets started the season 2-0. They later went 3-0, 4-0, and then 5-0 for the first time since 1985 after defeating the Memphis Grizzlies, Indiana Pacers, and New Jersey Nets respectively.

Season-by-season records

Home arenas


The Nuggets have worn numerous uniforms throughout their franchise history, including their days in the ABA as the "Denver Rockets." From the early to mid-1970s, the Nuggets wore gold and purple (Columbine blue) uniforms that looked just like the Los Angeles Lakers jerseys.

When the Nuggets joined the NBA in the 1976-77 season, their home uniforms were white, with a "Nuggets" script written across the chest in royal blue, with gold trim around the script and jersey numbers. The royal blue away jersey had "Denver" written across the chest in white, with gold trim.

From the early-1980s until the 1992-93 season, the Nuggets wore stylish uniforms, with the Denver "rainbow city" skyline across the chest and back on both the home and away uniforms. In the early-1980s, the Nuggets "rainbow" road uniforms were navy blue, before changing to royal blue in the mid-1980s.

For the 1993-94 season, the Nuggets drastically changed their look, with a dark navy, metallic gold and wine color scheme on their uniforms. The home jerseys had a "Nuggets" script in a western-style font across the chest in navy blue, with dark red and metallic gold trim around the script and numbers, while the navy blue away jerseys had the same script in metallic gold, with dark red and white trim. The Nuggets wore these uniforms for a decade, until the 2002-03 season.

For the 2003-04 season, the Nuggets made another uniform change, with a new color scheme of powder blue, gold and royal blue. Like the 1990s uniforms, the new Nuggets jerseys also have a western-style script across the chest - it's "Nuggets" in powder blue with royal blue and gold trim on the home white jersey, while the new powder blue road jersey has "Denver" in white with gold and royal blue trim. The royal blue trim was later changed to navy blue in 2009.

In the 2005-06 season, the Nuggets also introduced an alternate navy blue uniform, with an alternate Nuggets script in gold, with navy blue interior trim and powder blue outlining.


Basketball Hall of Famers

Retired numbers

Current roster

International rights


G Sani Bečirovič 2003 NBA Draft 46th overall
SF Linas Kleiza 2005 NBA Draft 27th overall
C Xue Yuyang 2003 NBA Draft 57th overall

High points

Franchise leaders

Bold denotes still active with team."Name*" includes points scored for the team while in the ABA.Italics denotes still active but not with team.

Points scored

Individual awards

NBA Defensive Player of the Year

NBA Most Improved Player of the Year

NBA Coach of the Year

NBA Sportsmanship Award

NBA Executive of the Year

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

NBA All-Defensive First Team

NBA All-Defensive Second Team

NBA Rookie First Team

NBA Rookie Second Team


External links

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