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Alex English and the Nuggets history problem

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This weekend the Denver Nuggets are honoring their greatest player. It’s a great moment that has come far, far too late.

I sheepishly asked a basketball Hall of Fame member for a picture.

I had spent the previous 20 minutes dominating an assembled media gathering/press conference during the third quarter of the Nuggets victory over the Brooklyn Nets, asking question after question. Eagerly awaiting answers and getting amazing payback with great answers. Yeah, I asked for a picture with the Hall of Famer ... and hero of mine. Wasn’t ashamed either. He is Alex English. Alex freakin English....

Should I have been ashamed though? No.

Chris Dempsey of Nuggets.com pointed out in his article and interview with the Nuggets greatest player, English’s dominance of Nuggets statistical categories is unrivaled. English was the leading scorer of the 1980’s. Think about that for a moment. Think of all the great players that dominated the 80’s in the Magic Johnson/Larry Bird era. It was English who was above and beyond in scoring. In fact ... the game below where English scored 51 happened when he was the age of 35!

(My friend Scott Hastings is seen roughing English up a bit at the end of this highlight package. Scott says he helped hold English to 51)

What happened? Well ... here is a quote from English in Dempsey’s article:

"Look at different teams, look at their history and the people that were important to their organizations, a lot of the players," English said. "Say, for instance with the Atlanta Hawks you think Dominique Wilkins; the Boston Celtics you think Larry Bird and (Kevin) McHale. I have not had that kind of relationship with the Nuggets."

The Denver Nuggets uneasy relationship with their history has been, quietly, a study in plausible deniability. The lack of NBA Finals appearances and true post season success since they entered the NBA 41 years ago has resulted in a huge disconnect ... a void in appreciation for their considerable history. Why did it take 25 years to honor the greatest Nuggets player in 50 seasons of basketball.

Oh yeah. Did anyone realize that this was the Nuggets 50th season? How is it possible to NOT celebrate a half century of basketball? It perplexes all understanding.

It’s hard not to go after the Nuggets who, regardless of ownership group the last 25 years, have been the masters of the self inflicted wound. I’ll admit, I tend to cape for the Nuggets because they’ve been my team since I was 10. If there is something and somewhere the Nuggets have contributed to their marginalization in Denver it’s their reluctance to embrace anything about their history. It's been an odd thing to watch unfold as every other professional organization in Denver (Broncos, Avalanche and Rockies) have all at one time honored the greats of their past throughout their history ... the Nuggets? Not so much.

Until recently that is.

Starting with the celebration of the 1994 8 over 1 team (largely due to GM Tim Connelly, VP Lisa Johnson and yes ... Denver Stiffs) the Nuggets have very slowly began to accept their history. Comsat/Ascent and KSE spent 25 years sleepwalking through 50 years of the Nuggets and it’s good to see that NOW they are attempting to link the past with the future. This progressed to the honor of Fat Lever a couple years ago, the Dikembe Mutombo jersey retirement and now the honor of English.

It’s essential to do this. There are a couple generations of Nuggets fans who think that history started when Carmelo Anthony came to Denver in 2003. While outside of the banners than hang high in the rafters of Pepsi Center, you don’t get any real sense of Nuggets history in the arena. No real depth of history.

I am extremely encouraged that the Nuggets have begun to recognize their history, and hopefully it will continue. English was due this honor for a very long time, and every Nuggets fan ... even if you don’t know who Alex English is, owes it to themselves to look up his basketball reference page or check out his highlights on youtube. It’s of a bygone era now, but it’s important to understand that greatness once wore a Nuggets uniform.

During his press conference that featured yours truly peppering him with historical questions there was a poignant where English reflected on the Denver Nuggets of the 1980’s. "No one did it like us then, and I haven’t seen it since" English said with a smile.

When asked does it feel special to him that no one has really tried the Nuggets fast breaking motion offense since then, English paused and said...

"Yeah. It kind of does"