Editor’s Note: I completely dropped the ball on not posting something on the Rodney Rogers story and I apologize to you all for that. However, as long as I am still breathing it is not too late to make up for my mistakes.
I imagine most of you know by now that former NBA payer and Denver Nugget Rodney Rogers was reportedly paralyzed after an ATV accident in his home state of North Carolina. He was flown to Duke University Hospital, which must have been galling to a former Wake Forest athlete, and has begun rehabilitation at a center in Atlanta that specializes in recovery from spinal cord injuries.
I make the mistake of thinking of myself as young and sometimes fail to realize that everyone who reads Pickaxe and Roll has been watching Denver as long as I have. Many younger Nugget fans probably have no recollection of Rodney Rogers as a Nugget. It hit home when At the Hive put up a FanShot of Rogers’ most memorable sequence as a Nugget and one reader commented he had never seen that clip before. In the clip Denver was down eight to the Utah Jazz with about 20 or 25 seconds left in the game when Rogers erupted for nine points in nine seconds. Sadly, and not included as part of the video, as the Nuggets celebrated John Stockton dribbled the length of the floor and passed to an open teammate who hit the game winning shot, but it was still one of the most amazing spurts in Nuggets, if not NBA, history.
Anyway, all you young whippersnappers gather around and I will share with you the tale of Rodney Rogers.
Looking back at the Nuggets draft history they actually acquired some very solid players in the draft in the early 1990’s, which set the stage for their playoff run in 1994 that left them one game short of the Western Conference Finals. 1990 brought LSU scoring machine Chris Jackson (soon to become Mahmoud Abul-Rauf). In 1991 Denver nabbed Dikembe “Who Wants to Sex” Mutumbo fourth overall (and unfortunately just four picks later Marc Macon). In 1992 they called the names of LaPhonso Ellis and Bryant Stith in the first 13 picks. Former Michigan Fab Fiver Jalen Rose produced some excitement in 1994 even if was just for his red suit.
Out of all of those talented players I was most excited when the Nuggets drafted Rogers with the ninth pick in 1993.
Rogers was the ACC player of the year as a junior and entered the draft as an underclassman. Built like a tank and with the ability to score from anywhere he appeared to be a player that would be a perfect fit alongside young teammates Mutumbo and Ellis.
Rogers appeared to be on his way to fulfilling his potential when his time with the Nuggets was cut short. After only two seasons he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers on draft day along with Brent Barry for Antonio McDyess. The fact that the trade was clearly a good one, especially considering the way McDyess dominated in the NCAA tournament just two months before averaging 30.5 points and 18 rebounds, made Rogers a somewhat forgettable player in the glorious history of the Nuggets. He went on to have decent success although never put up the huge numbers some, including myself, expected.
His last major impact in the NBA was when he was traded to the Celtics and helped them reach the conference finals in 2002 although that deal became known as the trade where Boston gave away Joe Johnson to Phoenix.
Considering the high expectations for Rogers when he entered the league, his career may have seen like somewhat of a disappointment. Maybe the clip where he scored nine points in nine seconds only to be overshadowed by a game winner was kind of a preview of how his NBA career would go. Nevertheless, he was a good player for a long time and I hope and pray that he experiences a full recovery.