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Nuggets in the 2000s: Allen Iverson
The backdrop could have been straight out of a movie. A star acquired. A late December snow storm complicating his ability to get to Denver. But then he did. Of course he did.
Allen Iverson arrived in the Mile High City on Dec. 23, 2006 with just enough time to get to the Pepsi Center, to take a physical – and pass it – to take a few pregame shot attempts, to suit up and then to make his debut for the Nuggets.
And what a debut it was: 22 points, 10 assists, 39 minutes. He did not start, but when he hit the court, Iverson never left. The Nuggets did not win that night, but it was memorable nonetheless.
"They embraced me here," Iverson said that night. "It was just a great feeling, and it was a feeling I wanted to get. A feeling I hoped to get. It was special to me, something I'll remember and cherish the rest of my life."
Allen Iverson played just one full season and parts of three seasons for the Nuggets. In his 14-year Hall of Fame career, it is but one chapter. But for that brief moment in time, the Nuggets were just what he needed. And for the Nuggets, Iverson was the man that helped Carmelo Anthony put the Nuggets on a national map.
They needed each other, and that’s why Bubba Chuck, as he was affectionately called by his Nuggets teammates, is back in Denver for 2000s Night as part of the team’s 50 Anniversary Celebration, to look back at those days. They were high scoring days. They were career redefining days.
At the start, they were days eerily reminiscent to Iverson’s time in Philadelphia. Not many will remember he arrived at the exact moment when the Nuggets needed a basketball court savior. Anthony was out due to a suspension. The Nuggets were down a few players, in fact, due to a brawl in New York.
Iverson filled the early bill. And when he and Anthony paired together, the Nuggets had a dynamic duo they hoped would move them closer to a title. Those were wild times. Iverson averaged 25.6 points, 7.1 assists and shot 45.6 percent from the field. His assists were the highest with any team in his career. His field goal percent was the highest of any team he played at least five games for in his career. Iverson still had “it.” And his national profile never missed a beat.
He made the All-Star team in each of his seasons with the Nuggets. In the 2006-07 season, Iverson was the author of 25 games of at least 30 points – and he scored 51 in a game against the L.A. Lakers on Dec. 5. Two remarkable aspects of that game: First, he scored 49 points in the first three quarters. Second, Iverson didn’t make a single 3-pointer. He made 18-of-27 shots from the field, and 15-of-18 shots from the free throw line. That game still stands as the highest point total for a Nugget since Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf hit for 51 in 1995 – a span of over 22 years.
It was vintage Iverson.
This is the player the Nuggets will honor on Friday night. The crossover king. The scoring guru. The cornrows. The unabashed and unflappable confidence. And all of it with so much swagger. There is no player in Nuggets history quite like him. There is likely no three-year period of a player that had more of a lasting impact with a franchise than Iverson’s with the Nuggets.
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.