Catching Up With Calvin Natt

From Baskets to Caskets and Back!
Calvin Natt proved to be a Nuggets fan-favorite during his four seasons with the team from 1984 to 1988. What many fans (and even some of his team mates at the time) may not have been aware of was Calvin's unique desire to own and run a mortuary when his playing days came to an end.

The son of a Baptist minister, Calvin admits to being curious about funeral home and mortuary work since he was young. "I'd go to funerals with my father and sit near the aisle so I could touch the casket." When he broke into the league in 1979 with the New Jersey Nets, then the Portland Trailblazers for four seasons and finally with the Nuggets, Calvin used his time on the road to learn about the business. "I'd call local funeral homes and ask if I could come by or just ask questions and basically just learn."

But learning about funeral homes wasn't the only thing Calvin did on the road. Facing All-Star competition every night including the likes of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Bernard King, Julius Erving and others certainly gave him enough to think about. "It was a different era. I was fortunate to be able to play in Doug Moe's system, which allowed me to use my skills and excel." His career highlight? "Being recognized with a selection to the 1985 All Star Team. I was humbled to be included with so many future Hall of Famers." That season, Calvin averaged 23.3 points per game in his first season with the Nuggets.

Following four productive seasons in Denver, Calvin retired in the late 1980s and opened "Calvin Natt's Family Mortuary" in Denver. He admits to not having much experience, but with a business degree from Northeast Louisiana, Calvin hired trained embalmers and funeral home specialist to help him better learn the business. But it wasn't easy.

"People knew me as a good basketball player, but they didn't know me as a funeral director," he recalls. "People want to make sure their loved ones are well taken care of. After I had done some services, people started calling and I still get calls today from people needing help."

Nuggets General Manager Kiki Vandeweghe wasn't looking for a mortician when he called Calvin earlier this summer. He was looking for special help coaching the Nuggets big men and Calvin was anxious to help out. "He's here to help give our big men an 'attitude adjustment' Vandeweghe said during a break at the team's training camp at the Pepsi Center.

One of Calvin's first projects will be 6-11 Center Mengke Bateer from China. "He's strong as an ox and has a great shooting touch," Calvin points out. "But he's not used to playing with toughness, but that's already starting to change."

Ironically, Vandeweghe and Calvin Natt are forever connected in Nuggets history. On June 7, 1984, the Portland Trailblazers traded Calvin, Fat Lever, Wayne Cooper and two draft picks for Vandeweghe, then one of the NBA's most prolific scorers.

"It's great to be back," Calvin points out. Obviously there's plenty of life left in this former Nuggets standout.