It’s a good time to be a fan of the Denver Nuggets, who definitely are one of the best sports teams in Colorado. They won their first NBA ring and they did it behind an unlikely hero: MVP Nikola Jokic, who continues to establish himself not only as one of the best Nuggets players of all time, but best players in the history of the NBA altogether.
So, how does the Joker stack up against the rest of the players who have called Denver home during their NBA days? Obviously, Jokic is one of the best players the Nuggets have ever had, and after he brought a championship home to Colorado, he has to be considered the best to ever do it in Denver.
Even if he doesn’t win any other title in Denver, he’ll end his career with his number hanging from the rafters in either Ball Arena or wherever the Nuggets end up playing decades from now.
Best Nuggets Players of All Time
Of course, Jokic is far from the only star the Nuggets have had during their time in the ABA and NBA. Despite never winning a championship, the Nuggets have brought in several stars that have delighted fans. Here’s a look at a few of the best Denver Nuggets players to wear Denver’s changing colors from their time as a professional basketball outfit.
Learn how to bet on basketball in Colorado here. The 2023-24 NBA season is scheduled to start on the 24th of October 2023.
Honorable Mention. Marcus Camby
It’s tough to trade the face of your franchise, but Denver made the right move in trading Antonio McDyess when Marcus Camby became available. Camby proved an outstanding shot blocker, swatting away 1,126 shots in six seasons with Denver. He also ranks sixth in Nuggets history in rebounding, despite having to play in the era of Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan dominating the Western Conference.
Camby’s a bit undervalued at times because of the era he played in and how the game has changed since his time, as today’s centers now play out closer to the perimeter. But he battled every night against some of the best centers to play the game, and he’s earned his spot as one of the famous Denver Nuggets players that fans remember fondly for helping turn the franchise around from the dark days of the 1990s.
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) November 14, 2018
10. T.R. Dunn
During the 1980s, the Nuggets gained the nickname “the Enver Nuggets” because coaches Doug Moe and Paul Westhead barely cared at all about defense. Both Moe and Westhead believed in offense, offense and more offense, which meant only a couple players on the floor were doing much of anything on the defensive side of the floor.
Dunn proved to be an exception. When the Nuggets needed a rebound, Dunn was one of the most likely to grab one. He proved an excellent rebounder who was often responsible for ending a possession and starting the Nuggets moving toward the opposing basket. He was not a scorer because he spent much of his career with Alex English and Kiki Vandeweghe taking the shots, but he didn’t need to be. Denver needed him to get rebounds and frustrate opponents, and Dunn did both regularly.
He earned all-Defensive Team honors three times in his career and pulled down 4,371 rebounds while topping 1,000 career steals, making him one of the most underrated players in Nuggets history.
— Trey Fitz-Gerald (@3FitzSLC) September 17, 2021
9. Byron Beck
Beck was drafted by the Chicago Bulls, but he never played a game for the NBA franchise. Instead, he joined the ABA and got in with the Nuggets from day one. Over 10 years, Beck became the first real face of the Nuggets, scoring 8,603 points and grabbing 5,261 rebounds in his career.
Beck’s size and efficient hook shot made him a difficult matchup in the early days of the ABA, and when the Nuggets made their move to the NBA, Beck continued to shine with his interior prowess.
Today, Beck’s No. 40 jersey hangs from the rafters, and it’s well deserved. Beck played 747 games in his career, all of them with Denver, making him the third-longest tenured player in team history. Most younger fans might not know his story, but Beck was instrumental in making the Nuggets attractive to the NBA.
ABA pic of the day…Byron Beck of the Rockets/Nuggets. Byron was a productive player whose claim to fame was being 1 of 6 players to play in every ABA season. Byron was the only one to do it w/ a single franchise, however. #RemembertheABA pic.twitter.com/A9EZsO1bD3
— Michael Pfotenhauer (@ColonelCards) August 6, 2019
8. Bobby Jones
Given how much the Nuggets were known for their offense in the 1980s, it’s a bit odd to start out this list with this many defensive weapons. But when the Nuggets started to make themselves a power in the ABA, it was the defense that made them one of the toughest outs in the league.
Jones was the strongest part of that defense because of his ability to do a little of everything. He could block shots as well as stealing the basketball, topping 600 in both categories with the Nuggets. Not only was he a defensive ace, but he also turned defense into offense by averaging 8.6 rebounds and 14.8 points per game during his Denver career. When the Nuggets became an NBA franchise, Jones remained one of Denver Nuggets’ best players, making two NBA All-Star teams.
— Stirrups Now! (@uniformcritic) April 8, 2021
7. Dikembe Mutombo
There’re two images related to Dikembe Mutombo that no Nuggets fan could ever forget. The first was Mutombo falling to the floor in celebration in Seattle in the 1994 NBA playoffs, reveling in the Nuggets becoming the first No. 8 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in the playoffs. The other is the finger wag that Mutombo would give opponents after swatting away a shot to let them know the lane was his house.
Over the course of five years in Denver, Nuggets fans got to see Mutombo wagging the finger a lot, as the center swatted away 1,496 shots, averaging just under 300 per year. That total is still the all-time best in Nuggets history, even though he only played a portion of his career in Mile High City.
Mutombo also proved an effective rebounder, grabbing 4,811 rebounds in Denver to rank third all-time on the Nuggets’ list. He wasn’t around long, but he made his presence felt, making his spot in our list of best Denver Nuggets players more than deserved.
30 years ago… Nuggets center Dikembe Mutombo blocked 12 shots vs. the Clippers! #NBAVault
DEN/LAC, 10pm/et, ESPN pic.twitter.com/xiP92gd1MC
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) January 13, 2023
6. Fat Lever
If there’s one thing that a team needs in order to succeed, it’s a quality point guard. Through the 1980s, that point guard was Fat Lever, who joined the team in 1984 after a trade that sent Kiki Vandeweghe to the Portland Trail Blazers. Lever was the engine that made the Nuggets go, as he made Doug Moe’s offense run by finding both Alex English and Calvin Natt on a regular basis. During his time in Denver, he was equally adept at scoring and setting up teammates, scoring 17 points per game and notching 7.5 assists per game.
On the defensive end, Lever became the Nuggets’ best ball thief in history. The point guard notched 1,167 steals and became a two-time All-Star. Even in an era when the Nuggets didn’t play a lot of defense, Lever was an exception, earning all-defense honors in 1988.
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) August 18, 2022
5. Dan Issel
Issel ended up with the Nuggets because of the ABA-NBA merger, and Denver was much better for it. Issel became a top scorer for the Nuggets by hitting jump shots from the outside and floating around to take advantage of opponents’ refusal to come out to take away the mid-range jumper. When he opted to play in the post, he proved effective, snagging 6,630 rebounds and scoring 16,589 points in his career with the Nuggets.
Issel was far and away Denver’s best rebounder of all-time, even though he didn’t play like a typica center of his era. He was a lot closer to a modern center, which made him an effective player for years for the Nuggets.
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) March 12, 2023
4. Carmelo Anthony
When it comes to the most famous Denver Nuggets players ever, Carmelo Anthony is one of the first names that comes to mind. Anthony’s addition to the Nuggets was the start of Denver being taken seriously again as a franchise at the start of the millennium. Melo changed the way that the Nuggets played the game with his ability to create his own shot, and overnight, the Nuggets became a force in the Northwest Division. In just under eight seasons in Denver, he scored 13,970 points while constantly drawing the attention of the other team’s defense whenever he touched the ball.
More importantly, Denver made the playoffs every year that Anthony wore blue and gold. Even when his time in Colorado came to an end, the Nuggets remained competitive for the next few seasons because of both the assets they obtained and the winning mentality that Melo brought to the organization.
Never forget when Melo won every rookie of the month award for a whole season but still lost the ROY award to LeBron. 🤯 pic.twitter.com/Zo31DDOHgI
— NBA Memes (@NBAMemes) March 26, 2023
3. David Thompson
Kicking off the top three of our best Nuggets players ever is David Thompson. At his best, Thompson could absolutely fly above the competition. Opponents suggested that the law of gravity didn’t really apply to Thompson, who became known as the Skywalker for his ability to play the game above the rim. He scored 26 points per game during his rookie year with the Nuggets, and he quickly proved why he was such a highly prized player as he nearly pushed the Nuggets to the last ABA title.
Had Thompson been able to avoid drugs and a foot injury, he might have been a key part of the Nuggets’ rise in the 1980s. As it was, he became a three-time All-Star and one of Denver’s most important players. For his first six seasons, he never averaged less than 21 points per game.
Got Nuggets legend, David Thompson, supporting the squad tonight 🤩 pic.twitter.com/oZ8nNL3OaC
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) February 12, 2023
2. Alex English
The fact that there’s even a question as to who Denver’s best player is says just how much Jokic has done in his time in Denver. It used to be unquestioned that English was the best to ever wear the Nuggets’ colors because of just how effective he was in Doug Moe’s offense. When the Nuggets got going, English was usually the man finishing the possession, averaging 25.9 points per game during his time with Denver.
He scored 21,645 of his 25,613 points with the Nuggets, earning eight All-Star appearances and leading Denver to the playoffs in nine consecutive seasons. English was the man every Denver opponent knew it had to stop, yet few could handle him. No matter what the future holds for the Nuggets franchise, Alex English will remain one of the best Nuggets players of all time.
Alex English in Denver:
— 8x All-star
— 3x All-NBA
— Led the NBA in PTS in the 1980s
Most points, assists and wins by a Nugget. pic.twitter.com/MiRartyuTT
— StatMuse (@statmuse) August 19, 2022
1. Nikola Jokic
Unsurprisingly, topping our list of best Nuggets players of all time is none other than Nikola Jokic. If Jokic’s career ended right now, he’d probably be neck-and-neck with English. But based on what he’s given the Nuggets so far, chances are that he’s going to give the Nuggets a lot more and surpass English as the unquestioned greatest player in Denver’s history. Jokic has now earned five All-Star selections, two MVPs and three All-NBA first team selections since 2019, as he’s turned into the top player in the league and made Denver a genuine contender for an NBA title.
Jokic already ranks fourth in points, third in assists and second in rebounds in team history, and he might well own all of the Nuggets’ records in those categories by the time he’s done.
At 28 years old, he’s still got several strong years of basketball ahead of him, and the Nuggets need to maximize their window while they have him at his peak. If Denver plays its cards right, Jokic just might land the Nuggets their first NBA title and go down in history as the unquestionable Denver Nuggets’ best player ever.
Nikola Jokic has officially passed Alex English for the most assists in Nuggets franchise history 🙌👏 pic.twitter.com/Q4xMQagp6l
— NBA (@NBA) January 19, 2023