With Nuggets basketball taking a week off, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of our favorite Denver Nuggets of years past. I took to Twitter to get some suggestions for this and got a great response.
My criteria for this team was that the player couldn’t be too important to the team as I believe the fan favorite title should be reserved for guys who can’t be considered one of the team’s best players (Bryant Stith got a lot of votes, but he was the starting Shooting Guard for years). So I limited myself to role players who just captured the attention of fans of the Denver Nuggets without actually being a huge impact on the court.
Additionally I didn’t go much past the Melo era, partially because I didn’t follow the team back then, but also because in the pre-internet era it was harder for those reputations to be established. So inevitably, some of the longtime Nuggets fans are going to be upset that some of their favorites missed out, but it’s not that they don’t deserve it, it’s just that I’m not in a position to write about them.
I used the current format for the All Star team which is 4 guards, 6 frontcourt players, and two wild card spots to build out this team. In doing so I discovered that most of our fan favorites in recent years come from the frontcourt. Filling out the guard rotation took some real work and there were some tough decisions made regarding who would get to start.
Without further ado, I present to you the Denver Nuggets fan favorite all-stars.
He might be the most impactful player on this list, but he also just couldn’t be left off. He played 255 games for the Nuggets over 3 1/2 seasons and averaged 25 minutes a game as their backup point guard. He has to be on this list though because standing at only 5’5″ he never played like it.
He put up 12 points and 4 assists a game as a Nugget and was the ultimate big little man. The smallest guy on the court was also one of the strongest. His energy was contagious and he was one of the easiest guys to cheer for on those Melo Nuggets years.
While he played just 31 games for the Nuggets he quickly became a favorite. Cheers of RUDYYYYYYYYYYYYY could be heard throughout the Pepsi center whenever he would make one of his crazy athletic plays. Whether it was a breakaway dunk or a crazy Euro-style pass fans loved when Rudy got a chance to show off. Plus he was part of our fun post-Melo, heavily international team and we took great pride in that global flare.
There was always a lot to love about combo forward Linas Kleiza, but he might have been a fan favorite as much for his connection as a former college teammate of one Josh Kroenke as anything else. I distinctly remember this being a storyline about Kleiza, but he soon proved that he belonged in the NBA in his 301 games as a Nugget averaging 19 minutes a game. He’ll mostly be remembered as a great teammate and one of the most random 40 point games in Nuggets history.
This is the guy that inspired this article if I’m honest about it, I just wanted an excuse to write about one of my personal favorite Nuggets ever. He played 22 minutes a game over 243 games in 4 seasons for the Denver Nuggets. He was always the type of guy to go out there and do all the little stuff for the team, fighting for rebound and loose balls on the regular.
He was also one of the happiest guys you’ll ever see play the game of basketball. He was fun to watch because of how much fun you could tell he was having. He solidified himself as a fan favorite in his final season when he turned himself into a 36% 3-point shooter on nearly 2 attempts a game. That was when big men shooting 3s was still a novel concept and fans loved it.
I can’t include him in this article without including his nickname. This is also the first guy on this list with two stints with the Denver Nuggets. He’ll mostly be remembered for his second stint however when he helped lead the Nuggets to the Western conference finals. He won the crowd over with his energy and strange personality, but solidified himself as a fan favorite through his high-flying blocks and impressive dunks. He’ll forever be a part of the fraternity of Nuggets fan favorites.
Isaiah Thomas’s stint with the Denver Nuggets was not particularly successful, but he is such a wonderful guy and his small stature made you want him to succeed. After a half a season in recovery from an injury his first 3 got one of the largest ovations at the Pepsi center in years. A guy who was an MVP candidate just a season and a half before who was ravaged by injuries was a narrative that just made every Nuggets fan an IT fan, unfortunately it didn’t work out, but he left the Nuggets still a fan favorite for his attitude and leadership.
His place on this list has more to do with his internet popularity and the context in which he made his debut with the Nuggets. He was signed to a 10-day contract with the Nuggets in the 2018-19 season after 3 of their starters went down with injury. Pepsi Center was actually chanting for Swaggy P, his nickname, before he was put into the game where he knocked down two 3s in his 9 minutes. He created excitement for a fan base broken by injuries.
This was the most difficult exclusion from the starting lineup. With numerous huge moments for the Denver Nuggets in the last few years and his constant upbeat energy and smiles he will always be a Nuggets favorite. He first earned this title when he went for 27 points when the shorthanded Nuggets beat the Juggernaut that was the Golden State Warriors in his rookie season.
That reputation continued last year when he got the game-winning block against that same juggernaut Warriors team. I think his reputation was set in stone when he got some garbage time minutes in the playoffs last year and gave the iconic shimmy after nailing a 3. While he never quite found a role here he’ll always have a place in the hearts of Nuggets fans.
Now this one is a bit before my time so I don’t have specific memories of his time in a Nuggets uniform. That said it’s clear he was another one of those effort guys who would go out and do all the dirty work for the Nuggets and do so with a great attitude. And now that he’s on the coaching staff we’ve further gotten to see his character and it’s confirmed why he’s favorably remembered for his time as a player.
He played in only 11 games in his one season in a Denver Nuggets uniform, but he might just be the nicest human being on earth. He also blew the competition away for the title of best bench cheerleader. He was all smiles and always the first off the bench to cheer for his teammates. Plus he also had one of the most iconic celebrations of the year last year when he hit a three and ran down with his tongue out dropping the hawaiian shaka hand sign.
This might be my most controversial inclusion on this list as many fans were frustrated by him starting over Nurkic his final season in Denver before he was traded. That said he was still a pretty beloved Center in the post Melo years. He also earned the nickname Mozgod when TNT mistakenly listed his statline one night as 93 points and 29 rebounds. The screengrab of this has since become of Nuggets’ fans favorite memes.
Now a member of the Denver Nuggets broadcast team, Hanzlik made a name for himself as a grit and grind role player for the ’80s Nuggets. He was the type of player other teams hated playing against and he wouldn’t back down from anyone. With Fat Lever and Alex English as the stars, Hanzlik acted as the heart of that team and he’ll forever be loved for it. His presence on the Altitude Broadcast allows me to break my rule about older players as he’s still very much a part of Nuggets nation.