Lark? What's a Lark? Oh, apparently it's the state bird of Colorado. It really amazes me, some of the names people can come up with for sports teams. As far as geographic or territorial significance goes for team names then, Larks isn't actually too bad. It would have given this otherwise somewhat obscure team in the Rocky Mountains stand out a wee bit more. Actually, since the Larks' city, Denver, is a mile high up in the air, that name makes sense in a refrigerator logic kind of way. Birds can fly, and you would have to be able to fly to get up that high, right?
(Worst introduction ever.)
As I've written about time and again since beginning the NBA long form of my teams project, the American Basketball Association was created in 1967. One of the ABA's charter franchises was awarded right off the bat to Kansas City, where… Their owner, a Southern California businessman named James Trindle, couldn't find a good place to play their games. Unable to think of a solution, ABA commissioner George Mikan offered a quick helping hand by suggestion he should move the team to Denver. The NBA had a former player at the time named Vince Boryla, who was a native of Denver. I don't know what the circumstances of the lease were, but Boryla was named the General Manager of the Denver team just before they were actually a Denver team. The move was made, and the team was immediately named the Denver Larks. Unfortunately, Trindle's group also happened to be a little bit short on funds, and Mikan (honestly, the more I read about George Mikan's actions as commissioner of the ABA, the more I begin to suspect he was rooting for the upstart league to fail) ordered the team to post a $100,000 performance bond or Trindle would lose the team. Hours before the deadline, Trindle managed to sell a two-thirds share to trucking magnate Bill Ringsby.
Ringsby's first move was to change the team name. Now, the team hadn't even played a single game in its history yet. Anyway, he deemed the team… The Rockets! Again, the same refrigerator logic would apply, since rockets fly really really high and the city of Denver is situated really really high. Also, Ringsby's trucks were called rockets, but you can't help but get the feeling that the name was a generic substitute.
The Rockets went out for the first time featuring a solid lineup comprised of guys like Byron Beck and Larry Jones, and later Ralph Simpson. In the 1970 season, they grabbed a controversial rookie by the name of Spencer Haywood. Haywood didn't have a controversial attitude or a criminal past or, you know, political stances or anything like that. His controversy came as a result of his wanting to play in the NBA before he actually graduated from college. The NBA decided not to admit him, but the ABA was there to pick up the slack! When Haywood ended up averaging almost 30 points and 20 rebounds per game in his debut with the Rockets, the NBA quickly changed its mind and let the Seattle Supersonics jump in and sign him after that one season in Denver.
In 1972, the team was sold, and in 1974, the Rockets were beginning to anticipate a future jump into the senior league. Since there was already a team in the NBA called the Rockets - in Houston, where the nickname Rockets was actually very appropriate - the team needed a new name. A name the team contest was held, and the winning choice was Nuggets, after a previous basketball team that played in Denver. It was also a much better nod to the area and its history, since the whole state of Colorado basically came of age due to the discovery of gold on Pike's Peak, which resulted in a gold rush. When the merger took hold for good in 976, the Nuggets were taken into the senior league with the New York Nets, San Antonio Spurs, and Indiana Pacers. The Nuggets had struggled throughout most of their ABA years, but in 1974 they hired Larry Brown to coach. In the final season of the rebel league - the 1976 season - the Nuggets did manage to make the Finals, where they lost to the Nets.
Of the teams that wanted to join the NBA, the Nuggets appeared the most eager. They tried to make the leap in 1975, but were held back by a court order. Despite this, the NBA was still a complete and total bitch about having to take a handful of the teams from those scumbag rebels that forced it into a merger, so the Nuggets were saddled with the same financial setback as every other team that made the transition. The Nuggets did manage to teach the NBA a lesson or two, though. They kept up their strong play and won their division for their first couple of years as members of the senior league. In 1979, though, Larry Brown walked away. (He tends to do that.) Their performances declined a bit, but in 1981 they hired Doug Moe as their coach, who brought with him a philosophy known as motion offense. That was an idea in which the team tried to move the ball until someone got open. Although he was also known for neglecting defense, the Nuggets became competitive, and throughout the 80's, the Nuggets frequently put over 115 points on the board. During the 1982 season, the Nuggets scored over 100 points in every last game they played. In fact, they scored over 100 in 136 games straight, a record. In the 1982 season, they also set the league scoring record with a stratospheric average of 126.5 points per game.
Alex English and Kiki Vandeweghe anchored the Nuggets at forward throughout the decade. Both averaged over 25 points per game. The team won a pair of division titles during that span, and in 1983, they played a single game against the Detroit Pistons which went into triple overtime, where the Pistons finally won by a score of 186-184. The combined 370 points are still the most ever scored in a single NBA game. Being playoff perennials, in the 1985 season, they at last sniffed the Western Conference Finals for the first time, but they faced the Los Angeles Lakers. And the Lakers being the Lakers, well, you know. Vandeweghe was traded before the 1985 season to the Portland Trail Blazers. They got Fat Lever in return, with Calvin Natt and Wayne Cooper. They did manage to keep pace with the powerhouses of the league, and in the 1988 season, they won 54 games, which was a franchise record. The playoffs didn't go quite as well: They were eliminated by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round.
Doug Moe walked off in 1990, and the team hired Paul Westhead to replace him. Westhead favored a style of offense which was similar to Moe's in a lot of ways, so guys like Michael Adams and Chris Jackson were allowed to hit the throttle and light up the scoreboard. Westhead also had the same weakness as Moe: He viewed defense as an inconvenience. Therefore, his teams, while blowing up every scoreboard in the league, couldn't actually stop teams from scoring, either. In the 1991 season, the Nuggets set many scoring records in the league. So, how did this fantastic offensive juggernaut finish? Last in the league. Without a D, sportswriters took to nicknaming the team the "Enver Nuggets." Rebuilding began that same year, though, when the team drafted Dikembe Mutombo in 1991. His rookie year was a success, and he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting while Denver finished, well, 24-58. Westhead was fired in 1992. Two lottery picks that year resulted in LaPhonso Ellis and Bryant Stith. The Nuggets were still losing, but at least they were now losing respectably, going 36-46. By 1994, Denver finally had a winning record again. They went 42-40 for the eighth playoff seed, but made history when they became the first eighth seed to ever boot a first seed from the playoffs. They fell to the Utah Jazz in the second round, though.
After that, the Nuggets spent the rest of the 90's stinking up the league. In the 1998 season, they made a run at the worst record in league history, ultimately going 11-71. That year, they tied the all-time worst single-season losing streak when they lost 23 games in a row, just one shy of the overall mark set by the Cleveland Cavaliers. They were constantly bad again, and in the 2003 season, the Nuggets once again finished with the worst record in the league, a terrible 17-65, tied with Cleveland. That, of course, meant looking to the draft lottery to save their pathetic asses. The Nuggets got to select third that year. They selected Carmelo Anthony, a Syracuse University product who, due to his incredible performances in the 2003 NCAA March Madness Tournament in leading the Orangemen to their first-ever NCAA Championship, was earning very favorable comparisons to the first pick of that very same draft, LeBron James. Back then it was perfectly conceivable - however unlikely - to envision Melo being able to rise to the same heights LeBron now has, and even outplaying him at times. Although that's not what happened, Melo - who is now with the New York Knicks - is enjoying a stellar NBA career.
The Nuggets turned around right on the spot, and the year after winning all of 17 games, they were finally a playoff team again. Although the Minnesota Timberwolves eliminated the Nuggets 4-1, the Nuggets became a playoff staple again, winning division titles in 2006, 2009, and 2010. In 2008, Melo was given a wingman when Chauncey Billups came via trade from the Detroit Pistons. It resulted in a run to the Western Conference Finals, which the Nuggets lost to the Lakers.
In 2011, that era closed. There were many months of speculation that Carmelo Anthony wanted out of Denver, and so the Nuggets finally closed all the speculating by sending him off to the Knicks, taking Chauncey Billups with him. I guess Melo had pissed off one too many people, because when the trade was finished, the Nuggets only had nine players left on their roster for the game against the Memphis Grizzlies that night. The Nuggets won 120-107, and the fans chanted "Who needs Melo!" Assumed dead after the trade, the Nuggets actually got better, and the first full post-Melo season saw the rise of Danilo Gallinari. JaVale McGee was picked up through a trade with the Washington Wizards, and underwent a revival. In the 2012 offseason, the team got Andre Iquodala in a four-way trade. Iquodala tweeted upon his trade that he's excited to be joining the Denver Nuggets, and that he knows his best basketball is ahead of him.
For everything about the team, the one thing about them that everyone seems to think of first is their uniforms. They've had quite a few unique ones. They used an iconic uniform at one time featuring a rainbow with an abstract of the city skyline done in what looked like building blocks. That uniform was so iconic that the team is bringing it back as an alternate, except with the current color scheme. The logo is called the Rainbow, or the Tetris.
Denver's only Basketball Hall of Famers are Alex English, a shooting god; Dan Issel, and David Thompson. Those three all have their numbers retired, along with Byron Beck and Doug Moe. Dikembe Mutombo and Marcus Camby won NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and Carmelo Anthony was on the NBA Rookie First Team. The Nuggets, as you can see, are clearly lacking for real identifiable faces. Alex English is the clear number one, and Carmelo Anthony was looking like the real thing until he fucked it all up. The only player from Denver to ever make the All-NBA First Team was David Thompson. English and Melo never did better than the second.
I had to mention the Tetris uniforms, because that's one of the first things people think of when the Denver Nuggets are mentioned. That's truly pathetic. They've had a few signature games, like the one against Detroit I mentioned, but their franchise faces really wouldn't hold their own against the best of the other teams. I'll give credit to Alex English, and a little to Carmelo Anthony just because I watched him at Syracuse. Also, it's nice that they played such incredible offense, but that never went with a whole lot else. Should we just call them the no-name team? Learning about them, I can't help but think they were included in the merger only because they made the ABA Finals in the rebel league's last year. They're the worst of the merger survivors, and you have to wonder if this was even the fourth-best the ABA had to offer.
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About the reviewer
Nicholas Croston (BaronSamedi3)
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial. Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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