One is a lanky small forward who puts up the quietest 30 points you'll ever see in an NBA game. The other is a 6'3" point guard capable of filling up the box score and flirting with a triple double every night. This lethal combination should sound familiar to Nuggets fans.
I can't take credit for likening the Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to Nugget legends Alex English and Lafayette "Fat" Lever...the idea was brought up to me by my Benedict Arnold Lakers fan of a younger brother. But after watching Durant and Westbrook give the hated Lakers fits for four playoff games in a row (before folding in Game 5), the comparison deserves acknowledgment. Especially here where I suspect many readers were too young to appreciate the days of English and Lever.
Before Durant routinely had countless "when did this guy score 30 points in this game?!" games and Westbrook played five inches bigger than his listed height, it was English and Lever who owned that act while torching the Western Conference for six consecutive seasons, beginning in 1984-85 with a 52-win season that landed the Nuggets in their second Conference Final.
Check out English and Lever's numbers during that six-season span together...
Alex English (1984 through 1990): 26.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, 0.9 spg
Fat Lever (1984 through 1990): 17.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 7.5 apg, 2.5 spg
Comparatively, here are Durant and Westbrook's stats in their two seasons together...
Kevin Durant (2008 through 2010): 27.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.3 spg
Russell Westbrook (2008 through 2010): 15.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 6.6 apg, 1.3 spg
During English and Lever's tenure in Denver together (English was here for four-and-a-half seasons prior to Lever's arrival in 1984), the Nuggets had seasons with 52, 47 and 54 wins (tying the Nuggets franchise record) and won four playoff series. This was the Golden Era of Nuggets basketball. Given that I remain a die-hard Nuggets fan, I fear that our division rivals out of Oklahoma City are on the verge of their own Golden Era, thanks in large part to Durant and Westbrook. And it scares me to death.
Just as English and Lever were unable to beat the Lakers in the playoffs, I suspect Durant and Westbrook won't either. The Lakers experience, combined with a slew of calls sure to favor Los Angeles in Game 6 (and 7, if necessary) will conspire to defeat the upstarts from Oklahoma City. But throughout this season and especially during this post-season thus far, Durant and Westbrook have the put the NBA on notice that they mean business.
So when you sit down to watch the Lakers and Thunder play tomorrow night, keep in mind that it was Alex English and Fat Lever who were doing this first. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Go Thunder!!