Alex English's Returns Celebrates a Great NBA Career

By Christopher Dempsey

On the list of things Alex English has always wished would happen, coming back to Denver and being celebrated by the Nuggets was near, if not at, the top of the list.


Friday is, for all intents and purposes, Alex English’s day in the Nuggets organization. The team’s greatest player, a Hall of Famer who holds nearly every important Nuggets record, is in town to soak all in of some well-deserved love.

“Look at different teams, look at their history and the people that were important to their organizations, a lot of the players,” English said. “Say, for instance with the Atlanta Hawks you think Dominique Wilkins; the Boston Celtics you think Larry Bird and Robert McHale. I have not had that kind of relationship with the Nuggets.”

That’s changing now. The Nuggets are tradition-rich, and in recent years they’ve been active in honoring the teams and individuals that hold a special place. Fat Lever was recognized. Dikembe Mutombo’s number was retired this season. The 1994 team that became the first eight seed to defeat a No. 1 seed was brought in and honored.

Now, it’s English’s turn.

“I know personally what I did here as a player and as a person in the community,” English said.

It was a lot.

As a player, English anchored some of the best – and most fun – Nuggets teams. He is:

  • The Nuggets leader in career points (21,645)
  • The Nuggets leader in career average (25.9)
  • The Nuggets leader in games played (837)
  • The Nuggets leader in field goals made (8,953)
  • The Nuggets leader in field goals attempted (17,604)
  • The Nuggets leader in assists (3,679)
  • Third in franchise history in steals (854)
  • Fourth in franchise history in rebounds (4,686)
  • Fifth in franchise history in blocks (622)
  • Thirteenth on the NBA career points chart
  • An eight-time All Star
  • A two-time second-team All-NBA member
  • The only Nugget to ever lead the NBA in scoring (28.4 in 1982-83)
  • The NBA’s scoring leader for an entire decade – the 80s, in which English scored 19,682 points.

It’s enough to stuff a sheet of paper, and during his interview there was one with all of English’s accolades within eye shot.

“To be honest with you I haven’t looked at it in a while,” English said “I know what I did, and it was fun. It was great. It was a different stage of my life. But it’s still the history of the Denver Nuggets.”

English paused. And grinned.

“Maybe,” he said, “you’ll let me see that list when you’re done.”

Because there’s never a wrong time to peer back into the past, to revel in accomplishment, to reminisce about times of significance. English narrates the current Nuggets ad campaign “Mile High Basketball.” It can be argued that true Mile High Basketball, the style fans know today, started with English’s teams in the 80s.

Those teams ran when running wasn’t especially in vogue. They scored points in bunches. They won games in bunches. They ran the legs, and lungs, off some of the finest talent in the league.

“I can remember seeing the Houston Rockets with Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon with their little tank of oxygen on the sideline,” English said, smiling. “They knew that they had a battle on hand and they were going to be worn out when the night was over. And we put the mental pressure on them, too.”

Until 2009, English’s 1984-85 Nuggets was the last team in franchise history to advance to the Western Conference Finals. They split the first two games against Magic Johnson’s L.A. Lakers that season. English had 40 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in Game Two. The Lakers couldn’t do anything with him.

But in Game Four… “I broke my thumb,” English said.

He’d scored 28 points in 26 minutes, but he was lost for the series. The Nuggets lost that game and the next and the Lakers advanced to the NBA Finals.

It bonded English with the Nuggets for life. And for a few days he’s back getting recognition for one of the greatest pro careers in NBA history from the one place he’s wanted it most: Denver.

“I enjoyed my time here,” English said. “I think they are going to do wonderful things here, and I hope they do. It’s about getting a relationship.”