Denver Nuggets A to Z: Fat Lever

Versatile guard was a triple-double machine from 1984-90
by Aaron Lopez

With the ability to pass, shoot, run, defend and rebound, Lafayette “Fat” Lever was the ultimate five-tool player.

As his former coach Doug Moe once said: “There wasn’t a phase of the game he couldn’t play.”

As part of a month-long tribute to the most notable and memorable players in franchise history, we are taking a look at the Denver Nuggets from A to Z.

L is unmistakably for Lever.

Originally selected 11th overall by Portland in the 1982 NBA Draft, Lever spent two seasons with the Trail Blazers before being traded to Denver as part of a four-player deal that sent Kiki Vandeweghe to the Pacific Northwest on June 7, 1984.

Lever, a 6-foot-3, 170-pound guard, thrived in Moe’s uptempo system, averaging 12.8 points, 7.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists in his first season in Denver. Those numbers were just a preview of things to come.

Lever went on to post 46 triple-doubles (including three in the playoffs) while with the Nuggets, accounting for more than two-thirds of the total in franchise history. Only Oscar Robinson, Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird have more career triple-doubles than Lever.

Lever attributed his impressive stats to hard work and a great supporting cast of teammates that included Wayne Cooper, T.R. Dunn, Alex English, Dan Issel, Bill Hanzlik and Calvin Natt.

Behind that nucleus, the Nuggets won 52 games and advanced to the 1985 Western Conference finals. In Denver’s second-round series opener against the Utah Jazz, Lever scored 19 points and added 16 rebounds and a franchise playoff-record 18 assists.

Lever twice represented the Nuggets at the NBA All-Star Game before being traded to the Dallas Mavericks on June 21, 1990.

More than 24 years after he left Denver, Lever remains prominent in the franchise record book. He is No. 1 in career steals (1,167), second in assists (3,566), seventh in field goals made (3,304) and eighth in total rebounds (3,621).

After retiring in 1994, Lever worked in real estate and later started his own construction business in Phoenix. He returned to basketball in 2007 and spent seven seasons as director of player development with the Sacramento Kings.

Game to remember, March 2, 1988

Lever recorded his first career 20-20 game, finishing with 20 points and 20 rebounds to lead the Nuggets to a 99-81 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at McNichols Arena. Lever added 10 assists and six steals as part of a remarkable all-around performance. Since 1985, only six players have recorded at least 20 points and 20 rebounds as part of a triple-double. Lever is the only player to do it twice.