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A special thank you to the Manimal

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After seven years, Kenneth Faried is no longer a Denver Nugget

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Everything you need to know about Kenneth Faried as a basketball player and what he brought to the Denver Nuggets can be visually summarized by the very first points he scored in the NBA:

The end of Faried’s tenure as a Denver Nugget, however, couldn’t be any more different.

A key member of the starting rotation since his rookie year, Faried was largely reduced to a bench role the past two seasons. In 2017-18, even after starter Paul Millsap became injured and missed over half of the season, Faried still only played in 32 games - mostly accruing garbage time minutes.

Quietly, on Thursday night, he became the main piece of a salary dump trade along with Darrell Arthur and a small package of future draft picks. Just like that, the most polarizing and memorable member of the Denver Nuggets in recent memory is gone.

It was clear from the very beginning that anyone whose nickname is “Manimal” was going to be a special player. He set the basketball world ablaze with his high flying dunks and non-stop energy. Each rebound he pulled down earned him more love and appreciation from fans who yearned for another Chris “Birdman” Andersen type player in Denver. Faried was that, and then some - but with dreads instead of a mohawk and no tattoos.

Faried’s name always garnered the most cheers during pregame introductions, and raucous shouts of “Unleash the Manimal!!!” were commonplace at Pepsi Center. Every time he touched the ball on offense, especially on a fast break, the crowd would get on its feet in anticipation of the monster dunk that was about to happen. Such an electrifying play quickly became the expectation, and the norm, from Faried.

But the Manimal was much more than just a marketing ploy or a crowd pleaser. He was an integral part of the Nuggets historic 2012-13 regular season, during which the team won 57 games. He won “MVP” of the Rising Stars game and represented Denver in the Slam Dunk Contest. Though he had a rocky relationship in the locker room during the Brian Shaw years, Faried was still seen as a leader among the players, especially the younger ones. Just this past season as Faried cheered from the bench he showed professionalism and grace even if it probably killed him not to be competing every night.

Unfortunately, as the NBA evolved, Faried’s game remained unchanged. Hustle and heart could only get him so far, especially when he plays what should be one of the most versatile positions in modern basketball and has only taken 14 three-pointers in his entire career. But that isn’t to say Faried can’t be valuable. He is an incredible player in the short corner and above the rim there are few who can top him. He paired very nicely with Nikola Jokic in 2016-17. But when the Nuggets brought in Paul Millsap and Trey Lyles last offseason, it became clear the team was looking in a different direction.

For years Denver was rumored to be trying to get off Faried’s deal, and regrettably by many he will be remembered for not living up to his salary or for taking up salary cap space as an “untradable contract” through no fault of his own. But Kenneth Faried did not fail as a Denver Nugget. Now that he’s gone it’s easy to look back and see how he has impacted this team. He helped reshape this franchise from the ashes of Carmelo Anthony and was often a lone bright spot on the floor. He took the team on his back when the Nuggets were trying to stay relevant within their own city, let alone the entire NBA.

If nothing else, Kenneth Faried is a guy who could be trusted to stay in his lane and one who made a living off of out-hustling everyone else. There are a lot of NBA players who can’t honestly say that.

Thank you, Manimal, for the fun memories, the highlight reel dunks, the insane blocks, the attitude you brought every night. Thank you for giving Nuggets fans a reason to hope for a better future and more reasons to get up and cheer. And thank you for all you have done in the Denver community.

We wish you the best of luck in Brooklyn and wherever your NBA career takes you.