MEMORIES OF SCOTT KNASTER: "After 1969-70, the Rockets slipped gradually out of the mainstream of Denver's popular sports scene until Carl Scheer arrived, along with Larry Brown and Doug Moe. Brown loved to go clothes shopping and used to wear anything but a coat and tie to the games. I have a picture of him coaching a game in multicolored overalls. Of course, Scheer's greatest achievements were stealing David Thompson from the NBA and bailing Dan Issel out of Baltimore. The Thompson coup was the first time an NBA #1 draft choice had ever signed with the ABA. It's largely forgotten now, but David Thompson (at right) was perhaps the greatest player in the game during his first two seasons, rivaling even Dr. J,before drugs destroyed his career. His first step could beat any player in either league, and his vertical leap was incredible. Although listed at 6'4", Thompson was more like 6'1" or 6'2", making his leaps and dunking all the more incredible. The last ABA and first NBA Nugget teams, featuring Thompson at his finest along with Bobby Jones and Dan Issel, plus coach Larry Brown, were the team's best ever. However, Denver always faded in the playoffs.
The ABA's second-to-last hurrah was the All-Star Game in Denver in 1976. The league had dwindled to 7 teams, eliminating the divisions and providing an all-star matchup borrowed from the old NHL: a single team (the Nuggets, ostensibly because they were in first place but actually because the game was already scheduled for Denver) would play the rest of the league's All-Stars. Scheer, ever-nervous about attendance, made the game into a spectacle by including a pre-game concert and a halftime slam dunk contest. The Nuggets beat the All-Stars as more than 18,000 fans went wild. I remember attending the official ABA All-Star luncheon banquet with a friend. A player was assigned to sit at every table, and we were excitedly considering who we'd be sitting with. Julius Erving? David Thompson? Artis Gilmore? Dan Issel? When we got to our table, we discovered our all-star was...Billy Paultz. He proceeded to say nothing during lunch except "please pass the rolls". From that point on, Paultz was known to my friend and I only by the nickname "Rolls." I did get his autograph on an All-Star luncheon program that I have somewhere.
The last hurrah was that year's ABA finals, in which Erving overcame Thompson and the Nuggets. Erving won the first game almost single-handed, scoring 48 points or so including a last second bucket to clinch it as my girlfriend (now my wife!) and I listened helplessly to Al Albert on the radio. During that series, Scheer crammed more than 19,000 fans into McNichols, adding temporary bleachers and selling standing room tickets until the Fire Marshal cracked down. And of course, my heart was broken when the Nets overcame a third quarter 22-point deficit to win game 6 and capture the last league title."
MEMORIES OF DAVID HUTCHINSON: "My favorite ABA season was 1974-75, the first season that the team was known as the Nuggets and the last season that games were played at the Auditorium Arena. Although I was slow to warm up to the new name, Carl Scheer and Larry Brown immediately energized the franchise. Newcomers Bobby Jones, a rookie, and Mack Calvin, an ABA veteran, stepped into a starting lineup with holdovers Mike Green, Byron Beck and Ralph Simpson. That lineup, together with a bench featuring 3-point sharp-shooter Claude Terry and defensive ace Fatty Taylor, compiled a franchise-best 65-19 record, including a mark of 40-2 at home. Ticket prices that year ranged from $4 to $6, and consumed virtually every dime of my allowance. The radio play-by-play voice that year was Mike Wolfe, who was easily the biggest homer in local broadcast history until Mike Haynes and the Colorado Avalanche came along."
MEMORIES OF KEITH GADBURY: "A positive memory I can recall was the national attention the Denver Nuggets received, playing in that small arena in 1974-75, and selling it out night after night. The team received a major "piece" in Sports Illustrated regarding the popularity of the team (as well as its success on the court). The Nuggets' new management made the franchise stronger, and put it into a position to "merge" with NBA. Despite all of the great ABA players near the league's end, I truly believe the success of the Denver Nuggets made it possible for the NBA to absorb those 4 ABA teams into the NBA."
MEMORIES OF BARRY JONES: "I lived in Denver (1970 -1990) and as a teen remember seeing Spencer Haywood (Rockets), Julius Erving (Nets) and David Thompson (Nuggets). I loved the ABA game! In fact, my friend and I (who were high school players) were such fans, that we had tickets to the Boston Celtics (NBA) vs. Denver Nuggets (ABA) exhibition game in the fall of 1975. McNichols Arena was open, but not completely finished. So, my friend and I decided that we would try to go there and play on the court before the game. We always had a simulated leather ABA ball in the car, and we reasoned that, after all, who would be there to say no? So, we went to the arena pretty early. As we were walking around outside the place, my friend and I found some freshly poured cement in which we scratched our names (which would remain there for years after). We then found a door that was wide-open and walked inside. Then, we went down to the court and started shooting hoops! The place was fabulous! Now, while we were shooting around, a few Boston Celtic players came out at the other end of the court. They kinda scratched their heads, but then began shooting to warm up. So, in a flash of teenage vanity, I walked up to one of the players (Kevin Stacom - I think that's how it's spelled) and asked him to play me one-on-one! Now my friend was really shy about asking, but I didn't have a problem doing it! But, my friend should have played him, because he was a much better player than I was. I still reminisce about the ABA. I still have a collector set of Pepsi cans with all the Denver Nuggets on them - for both 1974 and 1975. I'll have to bring them out and photograph them."
MEMORIES OF JIM KNOX: "I was an usher at McNichols Arena when it opened in 1975. The Nuggets were the franchise that opened up McNichols and really helped put Denver on the map as a professional sports city. I certainly remember working (and watching) the '76 All Star game, and Dr. J vs. DT in the slam dunk contest. But as a more "routine" game play, I remember David Thompson and Monte Towe (his partner from NC State) doing the alley oop - Monte would put the ball up there anywhere in the vicinity of the basket, and the original Skywalker would find it and slam it home! A truly awesome sight."
MEMORIES OF J. ANDERSON: "I went to high school in Colorado and was fortunate enough to be selected to the 1976 All-State basketball team. One of the "perks" for this was that I, my mother, and my high school coach, (along with all of my teammates) were guests of the Denver Nuggets at an ABA playoff game. We saw the Denver Nuggets play the Kentucky Colonels at the brand new McNichols Arena in Denver. I remember that Denver won, but I more vividly remember that the arena's scoreboards and clocks broke down. Nobody could fix them, and we received score and time updates from the PA announcer. I also remember meeting Byron Beck and Larry Brown at a local basketball camp. Brown had a short question and answer session and I asked him a very hard question (for my age). I asked him about all the negative comments Mack Calvin made after being traded to Virginia. Boy, did I think that I put Larry on the hot seat!"
MEMORIES OF CRAIG SAUNDERS: "I have very fond memories of the old ABA. I lived in Denver from 1966-1980. I got to see a lot of the old Rockets and Nuggets from Larry Jones to Bobby Jones. My father (a hard working man) bought me season tickets the first year of the ABA, and I still hold season tickets. The Denver franchise had many firsts. Denver signed the first college hardship cases (Spencer Haywood and Ralph Simpson). David Thompson was first and only NBA overall #1 draft choice to sign with an ABA team, the Nuggets. In the 1976 ABA All-Star game, it was the first and only time that a home team (the Nuggets) played the rest of the league's All-Stars. That game had the first slam dunk contest (D.T. meets Dr J). The greatest moment in all basketball All-Star Games would be Dr. J lifting off from the free-throw line.
I would say the 1975-76 team was a top10 all-time ABA or NBA team, with two future Hall of Famers (Thompson and Issel). Or if you liked defense, Bobby Jones could stop anyone from a point guard to a center. From the Larks to the Rockets to the Nuggets, this franchise has had an interesting past. Few ABA teams stayed together from the inaugural year of the ABA (1967-68) to the merger (June 1976). We had great places to see the games, from the Auditorium Arena to Big Mac. These arenas were very noisy with the locals inside, and the Denver ABA teams really loved to run opposing teams into the ground."
MEMORIES OF DARYL JOHNSON: "What really stands out in my mind is the 1976 All-Star Game. The Denver Nuggets vs. the ABA All-Stars. Dr.J, Dr. K(Larry Kenon), Billy Paultz, the "Iceman" George Gervin, etc. They were all there! The Dunk Contest: D.T. vs. Dr.J! I saw it all with my own eyes. But if my memory serves me correctly, all the media hype at the time concentrated on the Glen Campbell/Charlie Rich concert that started the evening. It was a long night -- the game lasted far past midnight, Denver time."
MEMORIES OF AL HOFFMAN: "Growing up, my family lived in Lexington, Ky (1968-73) and Boulder, Colorado (1973-78). When we lived in Colorado, my dad got us Nuggets season tickets. It was a great time to be a Nuggets fan. In the last year of the ABA (1975-76), McNichols Arena was brand new and packed for every game, and Denver was one of the best teams in pro basketball. My favorite player was (and still is) "The Skywalker", David Thompson. I had a #33 jersey, his poster, the whole works. He was just such an exciting, explosive player. I got his autograph several times and he was always very gracious. He could do everything that Dr J could in the air, and he was 3 or 4 inches shorter. What many people forget is that he was a good shooter. He had a great mid-range jumper. If you played too far off of him then he would drain the 15-20 foot J. But, if you got too close, he'd blow by you and create some great memories. I still remember listening to the final game of the 1978 season (after the merger), when he lit up the Detroit Pistons for 73 points. Seemingly, he had won the NBA scoring title until the Iceman dropped 60-something on the Jazz that same night to steal the title back. I remember consoling myself by saying: "At least David lost it to an ABA guy."
After Nuggets games, my Dad and I would wait for the players. I always got them to sign their bios in the programs. I would take the programs home, cut the bios out, and paste them on a big piece of poster board that hung on my bedroom wall. 25 years later, I can still remember all the Nuggets players and their moves. Dan Issel's head fake. Byron Beck's baby hook. Mack Calvin driving the lane and getting to the free throw line. Chuck Williams' goggles in '75-76. Marvin the "Human Eraser" Webster erasing shots. Monte Towe's ball handling. It just goes on. I remember Ralph Simpson going at it with George Gervin and John Williamson. Simpson was one of those ABA guys (like James Silas, Willie Wise, Mel Daniels and Louie Dampier) who never got to show his true stuff in the NBA. I also remember the heartbreak of the '76 Finals. Dr J's Game 1 winning jumper at the buzzer, with Bobby Jones draped all over him. Denver blowing a 22 point lead in Game 6 when a win would've brought the series back to Denver for Game 7."
MEMORIES OF GUY M. BLASI: "I was at the very last ABA All-Star game in 1976. I was in the top level of McNichols Arena and watched in amazement at the first-ever Slam Dunk contest at halftime. It was the brain child of Denver Nuggets' General Manager Carl Scheer. We had Artis Gilmore, George Gervin, David Thompson and Dr. J in the competition. I will never forget Dr. J taking the ball back to the other end of the court for his last dunk. He ran down the court holding the ball and took off from behind the free-throw line. He elevated who knows how high above the rim and slammed the ball through."
MEMORIES OF NICK CARBAJAL: "I was at the dunk contest when Dr. J took off from the free throw line to beat David Thompson (I'm from Fort Collins, Colorado). I'm only 31 years old, so I was just a kid back then. But I remember it like it was yesterday. The other dunk contest participants were Larry Kenon, Artis Gilmore, and George Gervin. Thompson lost the contest because he missed one of his dunks from the baseline. He and Bobby Jones were my favorite players. I was very upset when Denver eventually traded Bobby to the Sixers. I went to another ABA game at McNichols and sat courtside when Dr. J hung 50 on the Nuggets. I don't know how my Dad scored those tickets but thank God he did. I remember Dr. J being a better athlete than everyone else. He just kind of took over games whenever he felt like it (like Michael Jordan). No doubt, his best games were in the ABA. I actually had a program from the Dr. J dunk contest game until I was 14 years old. My mom threw it out because she thought I didn't look at it anymore. I'd give my right arm to get it back now."
MEMORIES OF ED WELLENS: "I moved to Denver the first year of the ABA. One of the first friends I met was a bank president. His bank had 6 season ticket seats and nobody really wanted the seats. I don't remember missing very many games all the time the league was alive. Seems like I saw the Doctor twice a week. For me, nothing has even come close to those days. I still follow pro ball very closely, but I loved those days. My favorite moment was the last All-Star Game, when the Doctor made the flying dunk from the free-throw line."
MEMORIES OF BRET C. BAILEY: "I attended one regular season ABA game and that was in Denver. I saw Dr. J. and the New York Nets at the Denver Auditorium-Arena! I'm sad to say I don't remember much about the game. But from reading tons about the league, watching interviews and seeing documentaries, I'm a fan of the league. What I love about the ABA is that it fit the times so well. It was a maverick league during the volatile times of the late '60's and early '70's. It seems appropriate in a way. What I respect most about the league is that I that the players seemed to play for the love of the game first, and money second. I wish some of the NBA players today would see this. I'm still a diehard Nuggets fan today. But I can honestly say my favorite Nuggets days were their late ABA/early NBA years because they were such a strong team then, and so talented. I hope those days can return since Dan Issel is back with the Nuggets."
MEMORIES OF BENJAMIN DUNNING: "I remember going to Nuggets games on the "Junior Nuggets" program. Season ticket holders got to buy 10 extra games (for the kids) for only $10, or some figure ridiculously low like that. The seats were in the corner rafters of McNichols Arena. But for a 10 year old kid and his younger brother it was great! The deal included a "Nuggets" bag with all the fixings: pennants, buttons, bumper stickers etc... Just another one of those Carl Scheer schemes to get people in the seats. As a result I got to see David Thompson live while he was at the top of his game. The way he leaped, the rafter seats were actually a good place to watch him play. I remember that DT couldn't palm the ball. So for a one handed dunk he had to cup the ball between his forearm and his hand and create some momentum to keep control of the ball. I remember one game that came down to the wire. The Nuggets set up DT on the wing for the final shot. He blew by the guy guarding him and took the ball to the hole. Then he elevated for the dunk. I've never seen anybody higher in the air since then. From my vantage point, it appeared that his elbow (as well as the ball) was at the top of the backboard. Unfortunately DT was off balance in the air and the ball slipped out of his hand. He banged the ball off the back of the rim and missed the dunk. Even with the miss it was still *WOW*!! Absolutely amazing."