Denver NuggetsBefore the Nuggets, they were the Denver Rockets, formed as part of the ABA in 1967. Byron Beck led the team in its early days straight from the University of Denver. By 1974, with the NBA in sight and a namesake already in Houston, the team took on the Nuggets moniker. Success seemed palpable in 1974–75 and 1975–76, with the ABA’s best record in their grasp. Yet, the Indiana Pacers and the New York Nets halted their championship dreams. 1976 saw the Nuggets join the NBA. That initial season? Quite the statement. The former ABA team outshined their peers, clinching a division title. However, their postseason run was halted by the champion-to-be Portland Trail Blazers. The duo of Dan Issel and David Thompson, both Hall of Famers in the making, drove the team to another division win the following year. But the Seattle Supersonics ended their playoff ambitions.
The English Era
In 1980, a trade brought Alex English to Denver. English would etch his name as the top scorer in the franchise’s books. Under Coach Doug Moe, the team, with English at its heart, consistently made postseason runs from 1981 to 1990. Yet, 1984–85 was the closest they got, falling to the Lakers in the conference finals. The 1989–90 season marked the departure of both English and Moe sans a championship.
The 1990s – Peaks and Valleys
Most of the 90s passed without much fanfare for the Nuggets. But 1993–94? That was special. Holding the eighth seed in the playoffs, they stunned everyone. Against the top-seeded Seattle Supersonics, with Dikembe Mutombo leading the charge, they scripted a historic win, becoming the first eighth seed to beat a top seed. However, the Utah Jazz ended their Cinderella story in the next round.
2003 brought hope in the form of Carmelo Anthony. Drafted third overall, Anthony’s rookie year marked a turnaround for the team, ending an eight-year postseason void. With Anthony at the forefront, postseason appearances became routine, but the first round was a consistent stumbling block. With Chauncey Billups in 2008. Billups and Anthony pushed the Nuggets to the conference finals that season, only to be stopped by the Lakers. Trade rumors surrounded Anthony by 2011, culminating in his move to the Knicks alongside Billups.
Resilience and Renaissance
Post-Anthony, a young, dynamic core emerged. The 2012–13 season stood out, with a franchise-record 57 wins. Yet, an opening-round upset awaited in the playoffs. An unexpected move followed, with NBA Coach of the Year, George Karl, being dismissed. The playoffs evaded the Nuggets until 2018–19, when an All-Star named Nikola Jokić rose to prominence. The team’s performance was commendable in 2019-20, reaching the conference finals, but the Lakers proved too strong.
Jokić’s MVP Dominance and the Ultimate Glory
Jokić’s following seasons were sensational, bagging back-to-back NBA MVP awards. But postseason success remained elusive, and critics quickly pointed fingers at him. All doubts were put to rest in the 2022–23 season. The Nuggets secured their NBA finals berth by dominating the Western Conference and breezing through the playoffs. The result? A decisive victory against the Miami Heat, marking their first NBA championship.
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