Mahmoud Abdul Rauf in 1993 against the Spurs

Denver Nuggets Twenty Greatest-Sixteenth Mahmoud Abdul Rauf

My 20 greatest Nuggets of all time makes a pit stop at No. 16 and this player was another of the great long range shooters the Nuggets have had over the years….Mahmoud Abdul Rauf.  Rauf was drafted by the Nuggets with the 3rd overall pick in the 1990 entry draft under the name Chris Jackson out of LSU where he was a 2 time All-American and played both seasons with Shaquille O’Neal and was coached by the always colorful Dale Brown.  Jackson’s college career is almost legendary as he averaged 29 points per game in his 2 seasons at LSU including leading the country in scoring at 30.2 points per game in 1988-1989.  He was drafted by Doug Moe in the last draft that Moe would lead as he was fired after the 1990 season but ran the draft for the Nuggets before he was dumped.  Rauf played for the Nuggets for 6 seasons and saw all the ups and downs that any player could going from a 20 win team in his rookie season to the joy and exhilaration of the 1994 playoff win over the Seattle Supersonics.  Jackson changed his name to Mahmoud Abdul Rauf in 1993 after converting to Islam in 1991.  The low point of Rauf’s career came in 1995 when he refused to stand at attention for the National Anthem and was chastised for this action which he said was because the American Flag is a “Symbol of Oppression”.  That incident is often cited as the main reason the Nuggets didn’t re-sign Rauf when his contract expired after the 1996 season.

With all that said, this guy could flat out score!  He was most dangerous at the top of the key, moving to his left on the dribble and pulling up for a 3 or long jump shot.  His shooting stroke was almost as pretty as Walter Davis’ and even though Rauf was undersized at a listed height of 6′ 1″ he could go inside off the dribble and make some acrobatic layups in traffic.  He had 2 seasons in which he averaged 19.2 points per game, 1992-1993 when he was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player and in 1995-1996 his last year with the Nuggets.  The latter of the 2 years scored Rauf a huge Free Agent Contract with the Sacramento Kings when the Nuggets didn’t re-sign him after the 1996 season.

He is on the Nuggets top 10 list in 6 categories that includes:

*  8th in Field Goal Attempts with 2,880

*  7th in 3 point field goals made with 371

*  7th in 3 point attempts with 1,048

*  10th in assists with 1,756,

*  8th in points scored at 7,029

*  1st all time in free throw shooting percentage at 91.6%.

He averaged 16.0 points per game in his Nuggets career to go along with 4.0 assists.  Rauf was honored with a place on the 1991 all rookie 2nd team and appeared in the Slam Dunk contest during All-Star weekend in 1993.  Rauf also suffered with Tourette Syndrome for his entire life but kept it controlled with medication and diet.  He did have some odd “Ticks” when he was at the free throw line and these were a result of his Tourette’s.  After leaving the Nuggets for Sacramento after the 1996 season, Rauf’s career went on a slide that ended with him retiring from the NBA in 1998 from  Sacramento and going to play basketball in Turkey.  He returned to the NBA for the 2000-2001 season with the Vancouver Grizzlies but only averaged 12 minutes a game and 6.5 points per contest before retiring from the NBA for good after the 2001 season.  Ironically Rauf would go on to play overseas for several European and Japanese teams from 2003-2011 before finally hanging up his sneakers after averaging 17.9 points per game with the Kyoto Hannaryz of the Japanese League.

My choice for the 16th greatest Denver Nugget of all time, Mahmoud Abdul Rauf (Chris Jackson)!  Photo Credit to stormingthefloor.net.

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