We Love the (Nuggets) 80s: Calvin Natt

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

If there was one player that embodied the word “tough,” it was Calvin Natt. Backing down from taller players was never an option for the 6-foot-6 Natt, and he enjoyed great success against some of the NBA’s elite talent in the post.

There is a story he likes to tell. It is of the day in 1984 when he learned he was being traded to the Nuggets from Portland, where he’d spent the first five-and-a-half seasons of his career. Natt recounted how he found out about the deal to a Portland newspaper, the Oregonian.

“It was June and I was in bed and the phone kept ringing and ringing, but it was like 6 a.m.,” Natt said. “Finally, I thought there might be something wrong with my mom or dad, so I answered. It was (Portland coach) Jack Ramsay. It was 'Blah, blah, blah, we just made a trade.' He kept going on about why they did it, but all I wanted to know was where. When he said Denver, I thought two things: the altitude and Doug Moe, the coach. All I knew was he screamed and hollered on the sideline and I thought there was no way I could play for him. But Doug wasn't so bad ... I made the All-Star team my first year.”

Turns out, Moe’s system was a perfect fit for Natt.

Natt ripped through the NBA, averaging 23.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.0 steals per game in the 1984-85 season, which saw him earn the only All-Star bid of his career. Natt shot 54.6 percent from the field that season for a Nuggets team that advanced to the Western Conference Finals.

The following season, Natt came back to haunt his former team – Portland – in the playoffs. Natt’s 23.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 51 percent shooting from the field helped lead the Nuggets to a 3-1 series win over the Trail Blazers and into the second round of the playoffs.

And when he retired from the NBA after the 1989-90 season, playing that season for the Pacers, he returned to the Mile High City in the most compassionate way. Natt opened Calvin Natt Family Mortuary which continues to serve the community today.

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