Fat Lever 'Overjoyed' by Jersey Retirement

The first shades of Fat Lever’s mind turning toward thoughts of maybe having a night like Saturday night at the Pepsi Center didn’t materialize until after he was done playing. Celebrating a jersey retirement just wasn’t a place he allowed his mind to wander to while he was in the game.

But after he was done? Well, then the moments started to come more and more often.

“I think the first time was when you see another jersey go up,” Lever said. “I can’t remember who it was that had the jersey retire, but I started thinking about but then didn’t think much of it.

“But then when I was with the (Sacramento) Kings, you see a lot of ceremonies that we had there, and you start reflecting back. Not in a negative way, but in a way that said ‘What if?’ And that what if came today.”

The Nuggets lifted Lever’s No. 12 to the Pepsi Center rafters in a moving halftime ceremony during the team’s game against the Lakers. Lever’s good friend and former teammate, Alex English, spoke to the crowd. Then Lever took the mic and addressed a full Pepsi Center.

Soon thereafter, his jersey was raised to the roof.

What did the night mean to Lever?

“It’s great,” Lever said. “To be able to share this special time with family, and for them to be able to come out and see what the hard work has done. The surprise when it first happened, it’s still there. I’m still enjoying it.”

In 474 games with the Nuggets from 1984-90 Lever averaged 17.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.46 steals per game. Over the years, he became more and more associated with his penchant for collecting triple doubles – a stat that wasn’t as celebrated when he played as much as it is now.

He had 46 of them, including playoffs. His 43 in his career during the regular season still stand as the eighth-most in NBA history, and, of course, is by far the most in Nuggets history. Not that they were on his mind when he played.

“Never,” Lever said. “Never even thought about it, and that’s why I admire guys who get it from hard work, and not trying to do it by padding stats.”

The only stat Lever cared about helping the Nuggets pad was victories. And there were a lot of them. The team went to the playoffs every year he was with the Nuggets, and advanced to the Western Conference Finals in 1985.

And yet, through it all, Lever wondered if this day would come. And it did.

“Once you start thinking about it, you wonder if it’s ever going to happen,” Lever said. “And once it happens? Overyjoyed. Happy. It’s there forever now.”

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter