Where Are They Now: Tom Hammonds

Former Denver Nuggets forward brought toughness to 1993-94 team
by Aaron Lopez

When it comes to off-the-court activities, NBA contracts have boilerplate language covering all the restrictions.

No skiing, no skydiving, no cliff jumping, etc.

For an aspiring race car driver such as Tom Hammonds, there was one restriction by which he could not abide.

“I wanted to be a professional drag racer,” Hammonds said. “If I give those guys everything I’ve got for seven or eight months, I should be able to do what I want.”

During his five seasons with the Denver Nuggets, Hammonds certainly gave his teammates and coaches everything he had as a broad-shouldered enforcer who provided scoring, rebounding and toughness off the bench.

Hammonds was a member of the 1993-94 Nuggets team that will be honored on March 17 to commemorate Denver’s upset of the top-seeded Seattle SuperSonics in the first round of the 1994 Western Conference playoffs.

“We were like brothers,” Hammonds said. “We did everything together – dinners, hanging out, laughing. It was so much fun.”

Hammonds recalls challenging teammate Robert Pack to a race around a motor course near the Medved Auto complex west of Denver. Hammonds drove a Hummer, while Pack was in a Pathfinder.

“We went to that track and they had all kinds of obstacles,” Hammonds said. “He tried to go through the course, but he ended up with two or three-thousand dollars in damage.”

Hammonds did some damage of his own while competing in a sanctioned drag race following the NBA season. The car flipped several times and the footage of the crash ended up on ESPN.
The first call he received was from Nuggets president Bernie Bickerstaff.

“I tried to play it off,” Hammonds said. “I told him it wasn’t me.”

Bickerstaff wasn’t fooled, but he and Nuggets coach Dan Issel allowed Hammonds to continue pursuing his passion. It was a fair tradeoff for his blue-collar effort on the floor.

“(Issel) knew when I got in the game, I was going to fight for every basket and every rebound,” Hammonds said. “No matter what, he could expect that.”

Hammonds also felt the love from Nuggets fans at McNichols Arena.

“The fans were great,” he said. “They respected what I brought to the floor – my work ethic. The fans were awesome. At McNichols Arena, they were right on top of the court. I don’t think there was a bad seat in there.”

After retiring from the NBA in 2001, Hammonds took a seat behind the wheel as a driver in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Pro Stock series. He later started the Race For Achievement program to promote racing, leadership, education and sportsmanship among middle- and high-school students.

Hammonds now runs a commercial construction business in the Florida panhandle, and he is a competitive Jiu-Jitsu fighter – most recently winning his division at the 2014 Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championships.

Hammonds also visits Colorado frequently because of his strong ties to the area. His middle son Keelan attends Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, while his youngest son Kaison plays baseball and basketball at Cherry Hills Christian School in Highlands Ranch.

“I played in different places,” Hammonds said, “but I look back at it, and my fondest memories were when I played in Denver.”