The Denver Nuggets began as a charter franchise in the American Basketball Association destined for Kansas City. Who are their 25 best players?
The Denver Nuggets were originally supposed to be a charter franchise in the old American Basketball Association in Kansas City, but when the ownership group couldn’t find a suitable arena in Kansas City, the franchise was shifted to Denver.
Originally named the Denver Larks, the original ownership group headed by Southern California businessman James Trindle never got off the ground.
With the franchise lacking funding, ABA commissioner George Mikan ordered the owners to put up a $100,000 performance bond or lose the franchise.
Before the deadline, Trindle sold a two-thirds share of the team to Denver trucking magnate Bill Ringsby for $350,000. Ringsby renamed the team the Rockets, after his fleet of long-haul trucks.
In its ABA days, the club made the playoffs every year, posting a 413-331 record in nine seasons. But they reached the Finals just once, in 1976, losing to the New York Nets in six games before heading to the NBA as part of a merger between the leagues.
In preparation for a merger, the team was renamed the Nuggets for the 1974-75 season—the name of a team in the former National Basketball League and the first year of the NBA in 1949-50 and a moniker that has remained in place since.
Denver has made the postseason 24 times in its 40 NBA campaigns, but has never advanced beyond the Western Conference Finals.
The Nuggets lost in six games to the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1978 conference finals, fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in 1985 and dropped a six-game series to the Lakers in 2009.
The team was sold to San Diego businessmen Frank Goldberg and Bud Fischer in 1972. Red McCombs purchased the club in 1978 and sold it to Sidney Shlenker in 1985. The team was sold to COMSAT in 1989.
COMSAT’s umbrella company for its sports interests, which also included the Colorado Avalanche of the NHL, tried for almost four years to sell the teams, with current owner Stan Kroenke buying the team in July 2000.
The franchise has employed 16 general managers, with Carl Scheer the longest-tenured of that group, serving from June 1974 through May 1984.
Three Nuggets executives—Vince Boryla in 1984-85, Mark Warkentien in 2008-09 and Masai Ujiri in 2012-13—have been named NBA Executive of the Year.
Current general manager Tim Connelly was hired in June 2013.
The team has had 22 coaches, with Doug Moe the winningest coach in franchise history, going 432-357 from the time he took over during the 1980-81 season through the end of the 1989-90 campaign.
George Karl coached the Nuggets from the middle of 2004-05 through 2012-13 and was 423-257. Larry Brown, who coached Denver through the merger years from 1974-75 through midway through the 1978-79 campaign, went 251-134.
Brown was the ABA Coach of the Year twice, in 1974-75 and 1975-76, and Joe Belmont shared the award in 1969-70.
Since moving to the NBA, two Denver coaches have won the honor—Moe in 1987-88 and Karl in 2012-13.
Current coach Mike Malone was hired June 15, 2015, and the Nuggets were 33-49 in his first season.
The Nuggets have an all-time record in both leagues of 1,976-2,000. Since coming to the NBA in 1976, Denver is 1,563-1,669.
The franchise record for victories in a season came in 1974-75, when the Nuggets were 65-19, and the team also won 60 games in 1975-76. Since joining the NBA, the high-water mark is Denver’s 57-25 mark in 2012-13.
The Nuggets’ record for futility was set in 1997-98 when Denver finished 11-71. The team has three 60-loss seasons, going 17-65 in 2002-03, 20-62 in 1990-91 and 21-61 in 1996-97.
Who are the 25 best players to play for the Rockets/Nuggets in their 48 seasons? Read on.