Allen Iverson will be inducted into the Hall of Fame Friday, becoming the seventh Denver Nugget to be awarded with a spot in the Hall.
The mercurial guard who excelled as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers was a Denver Nugget for 135 of his 914 career games - not even 15 percent of his career. But while his time in Denver was brief, it was one of the most significant times in Nuggets history.
Iverson’s time with the Nuggets was full of iconic players in franchise history - Carmelo Anthony, Marcus Camby, J.R. Smith, Nene, Kenyon Martin, Chris Andersen, Eduardo Najera, Earl Boykins, Linas Kleiza, Anthony Carter - okay, maybe some of those players aren’t as fondly remembered. The "Thuggets" (don’t @ me about the stereotypes behind that nickname) were one of the most popular teams in the league, strutting on the court and playing with braggadocio that helped them to the playoffs each season Iverson was in Denver.
Iverson left Philadelphia for the Mile High City in a trade on December 20, 2006, with the Nuggets sending Andre Miller, Joe Smith and two 2007 first round picks to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Allen Iverson.
Stop for a minute and think about how incredible it was that Iverson was traded, to the Nuggets of all teams. At the time, Iverson was the second-leading scorer in the NBA, the franchise point guard for major market team. It would be like if the Denver Nuggets traded for Steph Curry two weeks before Christmas, but if Curry had been getting in fights at casinos and arguing with Warriors management.
While the 2006-07 Nuggets managed to make the playoffs, winning 45 games to secure the No. 6 seed, they wound up facing the eventual league champion San Antonio Spurs in the first round, losing in five games.
The 2007-08 season was amazing. Iverson and Anthony each averaged over 25 points a game. Iverson scored 51 points in an early December game against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, and the Nuggets still lost by four points. Carmelo scored 49 points against the Washington Wizards, Kleiza scored 41 points in a win over Utah, probably the best game in his career.
The Nuggets won 50 games that season, were featured on national broadcasts thanks to the star power from Iverson and Anthony, and finished the regular season as the No. 8 seed somehow (the Western Conference was stacked). As the No. 8 seed, they got to play against the Kobe and Pau Lakers, and lost in four games.
After the 2008 season ended, the Thuggets were no more. Marcus Camby was traded FOR THE RIGHTS TO SWAP SECOND-ROUND PICKS with the Los Angeles Clippers, and Iverson was sent to Detroit in a trade for Chauncey Billups.
135 games - a small sliver of a career for a player that began at Georgetown and now culminates in the Hall of Fame. But when Iverson was in Denver, the Nuggets mattered. They weren't just a team that scored a bunch of points in the 80s, a team that upset the Sonics in the 90s, or the team that drafted an eventual member of their marketing dunk squad with the No. 5 pick in the 2000s - they were a team with attitude, swagger, and appeal. They were big time.
It could easily be argued that Iverson’s legacy with the Denver Nuggets will be remembered as being the player that brought Chauncey Billups back to Denver to play for his hometown team. Without Iverson though, the Nuggets wouldn’t have nearly as many fans as they do today. The Hall-of--Fame guard brought eyes to the Nuggets, and many remain fans of the team today.
In the end, Iverson will be remembered not for being a point guard with the Nuggets, but for being a killer. The Answer helped spawn a new generation of Nuggets fans, and his contributions to the franchise may be small but have had an impact that has lasted long since his departure.
Congratulations, Mr. Iverson, on being inducted to the Hall of Fame