NBA Trivia: Denver Nuggets

By Lorenzo Tanos

As one of four American Basketball Association (ABA) teams that joined the NBA for the 1976-77 season, the Denver Nuggets have a colorful “back story;” like most any other team that got its start in the renegade ABA. We shall take a look at both ABA and NBA eras in this NBA Trivia installation, which covers the 46-year history of the Nuggets.

  1. A standout at the University of Denver, this original Nugget played all ten seasons of his combined ABA/NBA career for the team and even took part in two ABA All-Star Games. He was also the first Nugget to have his number retired.

    Byron Beck, a largely obscure 6’9” forward/center for the University of Denver, doesn’t have career numbers (11.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg) that jump right at you. But for ten seasons, he was the Nuggets’ backbone, a hard-nosed rebounder and defender who was one of only six ABA players to play in all nine of the league’s seasons.

  2. He turned pro after his sophomore season with the University of Detroit, took the ABA by storm by winning both MVP and Rookie of the Year honors for the Nuggets, then jumped ship to the NBA after just one season in the ABA.

    Spencer Haywood was a controversial player from day one, yet was unquestionably talented, averaging 30.0 ppg and 19.5 rpg in his MVP/ROY campaign for the Nuggets. One year later, he was a Seattle Sonic, averaging no less than 20 ppg and 9 rpg in five years before his career started to slowly, but surely flame out due to his questionable work ethic. Except for a brief “blip” in which he averaged 20.9 ppg and 7.8 rpg in 1978-79, Haywood’s post-merger career was an exercise in underachievement.

  3. True or False – Dan Issel was drafted in the first round in the NBA but was lured to the ABA by promises of a fatter contract.

    False. Believe it or not, Issel was drafted in the 8th round of the 1970 NBA Draft, going 122nd overall to the Detroit Pistons. And to think he was an All-American center for Adolph Rupp’s late-‘60s Kentucky teams! But like several other high-profile college players drafted around that time (Artis Gilmore, Charlie Scott, etc.), Issel was an NBA Draft afterthought as he was, from the get-go, more inclined to sign with the ABA instead.

  4. Which team had originally drafted David Thompson and Marvin Webster first and third overall in the 1975 NBA Draft?

    The Atlanta Hawks.As the Hawks had seemed “uninterested” in Thompson, he had opted instead with the ABA’s Virginia Squires, but ended up signing with the Nuggets. It’s unknown how interested the Hawks were in Webster, but both men played their rookie years instead in Denver. Thompson was an instant sensation as a rookie and would go on to be one of the NBA’s top scorers and most athletic dunkers. Webster, except for two seasons as the Sonics’ starting center, was a certified NBA bust, a good shotblocker but nothing like the “Human Eraser” he was supposed to be.

  5. True or False – Everybody Doug Moe had played in the December 13, 1983 game that saw the Nuggets lose 184-186 to the Detroit Pistons in triple overtime was able to score.

    Depending on whom you ask, the Pistons’ record-breaking 186-184 win over the hosting Denver Nuggets on 12/13/83 was famous…or infamous in NBA history. Individual Nuggets scores for that game – Kiki Vandeweghe 51, Alex English 47, Dan Issel 28, Mike Evans 16, Richard Anderson 13, Danny Schayes 11, Rob Williams 9, T.R. Dunn 7, Bill Hanzlik 2, Kenny Dennard 0, Howard Carter 0. Therefore, the answer to the above question is False.

  6. And here’s more high-octane infamy from the Nuggets. True or False – the Nuggets led the NBA in scoring but finished last in scoring defense in 1990-91.

    True. At least Doug Moe was able to coax some success out of the Nuggets in the ‘80s despite not paying much attention to defense. The 1990-91 Nuggets averaged 119.9 ppg that season while giving up a whopping 130.8 ppg on 51% shooting. And in case you’re wondering, the Nuggets only shot 44% on their end. A year later, coach Paul Westhead (miraculously still holding down the coaching job) tried to spite the critics by playing at an extremely slow pace, but not even DikembeMutombo could save the Nuggets from another horrid season in 1991-92.

  7. What was the Nuggets’ record in the 1994 NBA Playoffs?

    7-7. The Nuggets became the first-ever eighth seed to defeat a first seed (the Seattle Supersonics) in the NBA Playoffs by going 4-3 against a team led by Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, then fought a tough best-of-seven series versus the Utah Jazz in the second round, losing that series 3-4.

  8. Who was the Nuggets’ coach and top scorer in the disastrous 1997-98 season that saw them threaten Philadelphia’s then-record of 9 wins in an 82-game season?

    Former Nuggets utility man Bill Hanzlik went 11-71 in 1997-98 in his only NBA coaching stint ever, and that included 23 straight losses at one point. The leading scorer in Denver that season was Johnny Newman (14.7 ppg), a reserve wingman and formerly explosive scorer whose main calling card, at that point, was defense.

  9. What year did the Denver Nuggets score 168 points (third highest team output in NBA history behind the 1983 Denver-Detroit game) in a 52-point thrashing of the Seattle Supersonics – 1978, 1988 or 2008?

    2008. And this time around, everybody on the Nuggets scored at least two points – Carmelo Anthony led the scoring parade with 26, while seven others also scored in double digits.

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