Denver Nuggets transport fans 20 years back in time

Ellis, Mutombo on hand as 1993-94 team is honored at Pepsi Center
by Aaron Lopez

From Dikembe Mutombo’s signature finger wag to LaPhonso Ellis’ disarming smile, it felt a little like 1994 again in Denver on Monday night.

Different building, same electricity, same sense of family.

Twenty years after taking Nuggets fans on a historic joy ride, Ellis, Mutombo and their teammates were recognized for their memorable upset of the top-seeded Seattle in the first-round of the 1994 NBA playoffs.

“It’s kind of hard to wrap your mind around it all,” Ellis said. “It’d be one thing had we won a world championship, but obviously what we were able to accomplish back in 1994 resonates with the people in the organization and the entire town. It’s a privilege, and we’re flattered and honored.”

Ellis and Mutombo were joined by former teammates Tom Hammonds, Darnell Mee, Mark Randall and Reggie Williams. Coach Dan Issel and his assistants Mike Evans and Gene Littles also were in attendance, along with athletic trainer Jim Gillen, assistant athletic trainer Troy Wenzel and basketball operations assistant Lisa Johnson.

Gillen and Johnson, who is now vice president of basketball administration, are the two staffers remaining with the team 20 years later.

“This means a lot,” Mutombo said. “So many good memories. One of them is a little bit sad. Brian Williams is no longer with us. He was a great teammate and friend. We miss him. I know that his soul and his spirit were with us today as we celebrate this team.”

Williams, who later changed his name to Bison Dele, went missing in 2002 while sailing on a catamaran in the South Pacific. The circumstances of his disappearance remain unknown 12 years later.

Other members of the team who were unable to attend were Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf; Kevin Brooks, who is coaching in Australia; Robert Pack, an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder; Rodney Rogers; and Bryant Stith, an assistant coach at Old Dominion University.

Brooks, Pack and Stith delivered video messages that were played during Denver’s thrilling victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Nuggets fans also were treated to a special pregame video that blended highlights of the 1993-94 team and the current team.

In addition, the Nuggets wore the dark-blue jerseys that were popularized by Ellis and Mutombo in the early and mid-90s.

“Just having their jerseys on, you could just feel in the building that it was a different atmosphere,” Denver guard Randy Foye said. “We felt it from (Sunday) night. We had dinner with those guys and just hearing their stories, we really wanted to come out and win for those guys.”

The Nuggets did just that, closing the game on a 14-2 scoring run to snap the Clippers’ 11-game win streak.

It was the perfect ending to a memorable night – and a final, fitting tribute to a team that forever earned a place in Nuggets history.