You might have seen a social media trend going around where people are putting together highlights of fairly non-descript players in professional sports, then setting those highlights to the backdrop of Meek Mill’s “Ima Boss” and titling them “F*ck it, non descript player highlights.” So naturally, I had to do it with Denver Nuggets role players. Here it is, F*ck it Denver Nuggets Role Players highlights.

Linas Kleiza

Linas Kleiza is perhaps one of the most beloved players of the 2000s Denver Nuggets. The 27th overall pick in the 2005 draft, Kleiza was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers but landed in Denver on a draft night swap with Jarret Jack. He played four seasons for the Nuggets and was an integral part of the rotation as part of a four man bench unit with J.R. Smith, Anthony Carter and Chris “Birdman” Andersen during the team’s 2008-2009 season where they made a run to the Western Conference Finals. Kleiza’s time in Denver ended after that season during a weird period of the NBA where solid role players like Kleiza and Josh Childress eschewed the chance to play in the NBA as a role player in favor of taking big dollar contracts with teams in Europe. When Linas returned to the NBA after playing the ‘09-’10 season in Greece he was still a restricted free agent, but kindly asked the Nuggets to not match the offer he received from the Toronto Raptors and Denver obliged.


Tom Hammonds

Tom “the Hammer” Hammonds might be best known for posterizing Michael Jordan during Hammonds’ Washington Bullets days but he is also one of the less heralded players from the magical ‘93-’94 Nuggets roster that became the first ever eight seed to upset a one seed in the playoffs. Hammonds played sparingly with the Nuggets that year as they were already fairly set at the power forward position behind star Laphonso Ellis and first round draft pick Rodney Rogers but Tom was arguably the most prolific dunker on the team (arguably because Robert Pack has a case too). As injuries piled up in the following seasons, particularly at the forward position, Hammonds found his way into a regular bench rotation spot for the Nuggets from 1995 to 1997 before finishing out his career in Minnesota.


Jordan Hamilton


Jordan Hamilton epitomizes the idea of unfounded optimism in the unknown. I’m not sure if there is a single player during the post Melo/pre Jokic era that fans were more convinced was going to be a stud without any actual evidence on an NBA court to back it up. Another late first round pick the Nuggets acquired on draft night, Hamilton was part of a Nuggets rookie class that also included Kenneth Faried and Julyan Stone that generated unbridled hope of a next generation of Nuggets. In the end Faried was the only one of the three to have a significant role with the team, but Hamilton every now and then flashed the athleticism, range and shooting ability that made so many fans salivate. His tenure ultimately was short lived and he was traded at the deadline during his third season to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Aaron Brooks


Bryant Stith


Stith is by far the best “role player” on this list from a basketball contribution perspective. Another member of the ‘93-’94 squad, Stith was a staple in Denver’s starting lineup throughout the 1990s and can make as good a case as anyone for the most underrated Nugget of all time (for my money it’s either Stith or Nene). While the once promising core of the 90s Nuggets fell apart for one reason or another, Stith was always the constant. A fantastic wing defender and leader, the former 12th overall pick forced his way into the starting lineup by his sophomore season in ‘93-’94 and remained there until injuries plagued the latter half of his time with Denver. He was traded to Boston in 2000 for Calbert Cheaney and a second stint of Robert Pack.


Earl Boykins


Many fans remember Earl Boykins as he was hard to miss on the basketball court. Standing at just 5’5”, Boykins is the second shortest player in NBA history. After bouncing around the league a bit, Boykins found himself a home in Denver as a free agent signing in 2003 (Melo’s rookie year). He spent the majority of his career in Denver as the backup to Andre Miller, guiding the Nuggets bench as their second point guard. Despite his size, Boykins played fearlessly and never saw a shot he didn’t like. That fearlessness led to some memorable moments from Earl during his time in Denver. When the Nuggets traded Miller for Allen Iverson Boykins was suddenly thrust into the starting point guard role while 6’0” AI played shooting guard and the backcourt was simply too small. A little more than three weeks after the Iverson trade, Denver dealt Boykins along with Julius Hodge to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for the taller Steve Blake. 


Randy Foye


There might not be a player who exemplifies the misguided hope from Denver’s front office as they moved into the post George Karl era more than Randy Foye (ok…Nate Robinson probably exemplifies it a tad more). After firing Karl following the 2012-2013 season, the Nuggets believed they still had a perennial playoff team even though their best player, Danilo Gallinari, was out for the entire year with a torn ACL and their second best player, Andre Iguodala, moled his way onto the Golden State Warriors. Instead of committing to the inevitable rebuild and going young, the Nuggets brought in vets like Foye, Robinson and J.J. Hickson. Poor judgment of their talent, coupled with poor coaching, led to the bottom dropping out for Denver as the team won twenty-one fewer games than the previous season. Foye started 78 games that season and was actually an above average shooter. By mid-season 2015-2016 though it was obvious the team needed to tear it down and start over which left vets like Foye on the outside looking in. He was traded at the deadline to the Oklahoma City Thunder for D.J. Augustin and a pair of 2nd round picks.


Anthony Carter


Good old “A CEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE,” as Kyle Speller would say. Originally a training camp invite trying to reboot his career in 2006, the Nuggets signed Carter to a full time deal at the end of the 2006-2007 season with just two games remaining before the playoffs. AC found his way into the Nuggets rotation in game 5 just more than a week later against the San Antonio Spurs after Karl infamously benched J.R. Smith. In just fourteen minutes Carter picked up 8 points on a perfect four for four shooting while playing within his role. Those 14 minutes translated to a starting role next to Iverson the following season and a role as Chauncey Billups’ backup for the rest of Carter’s Nuggets tenure. To the chagrin of some Nuggets fans, he became one of Karl’s trusted vets, often playing over guards like Smith or Dahntay Jones in crunch time minutes. This led to one of the most regrettable passes in Nuggets history when AC’s crunch time, inbound pass against the Lakers in game 1 of the ‘09 Western Conference finals was stolen and sealed the victory for LA. Carter ultimately was a casualty of the Melodrama, being traded with Anthony, Billups and others to the New York Knicks in 2011.


Torrey Craig


Craig was the first Nugget to use the newly installed two-way contract as an opportunity to earn himself a full time role on the team and ultimately parlayed that into an NBA career that is still going today. After playing his college ball at USC Upstate and then playing over in the NBL in Australia, Craig got his chance in 2017 with the Nuggets. He endured the early days of two-way contracts and was rumored to sometimes have to fly commercial so that it wouldn’t count as a “day” on the NBA roster. A true underdog story, Craig used hustle and defense to carve out a role for himself on the wing with Denver. Like AC with Karl, Craig became a trusted veteran for coach Michael Malone and that sometimes placed him in the ire of fans unfairly. His inability to shoot consistently from three led to him becoming a liability on offense and ultimately the Nuggets let him walk in free agency in 2020 in favor of signing Facundo Campazzo.


Renaldo Balkman


Renaldo Balkman aka The Crime Stopper was an all time fan favorite and Stiff. He had a tenacity for rebounding and defense when motivated that even had some fans wondering if the Nuggets had found a poor man’s Dennis Rodman. Unfortunately, minutes were sparse for Balkman in Karl’s rotation and the Melo era forward spent most of his time riding the bench. When he did get in though, the home crowd was always pleased to see any highlight. Fun fact, Renaldo was traded to the Nuggets by the New York Knicks and then as part of the Melo deal was traded back to the Knicks two and a half seasons later. Those were the only two teams he played for in his NBA career.