First of all, let’s establish the 3 guys who are definitively on this Mt. Rushmore.
Despite his shortcomings as a GM for the Broncos (he DID win a Super Bowl), John Elway is undoubtedly the first guy people think of when they think of Colorado sports. He led the Broncos to 5 Super Bowls, winning 2, and is widely considered one of the best quarterbacks of all time. Elway also spent his entire career with the Broncos, a fact not lost on the people of Denver.
Also a no-brainer, Joe Sakic is a god to hockey fans in Colorado. He led the Avalanche to their only 2 Stanley Cups, spent his entire career with the Colorado franchise (first 6 years in Quebec), and is considered one of the best hockey players to ever take the ice.
My childhood hero. The reason I wore #17 in every sport I played as a kid. Although Todd Helton never won a World Series, he did win an MVP and is undoubtedly the best player the Colorado Rockies have ever put on a baseball field. Todd Helton loved Colorado, and we loved him back. Helton played for 17 years, all in a Rockies uniform. Notice a trend here?
Is it really that crazy to already consider Nikola Jokic as one of the 4 greatest athletes Colorado has ever seen?
Former Nuggets coach George Karl already thinks he’s the best Nugget:
Is he right? Let’s go through it.
Dude carried the Nuggets in the 2000’s, but he was also a one-trick pony who demanded a trade in the middle of his prime. I’m not even going to respect him enough to show him in a Nuggets jersey. Sorry Melo, you dug your own grave here in Denver. Melo’s out.
A larger-than-life character who led Denver to one of the biggest upsets in NBA history, with the #8 seed Nuggets defeating the #1 seed Seattle Super Sonics in the 1994 NBA Playoffs.
Mutombo also had the best signature celebration of any athlete ever, waving his finger in the face of opponents he just demoralized with a block.
The man is a G.
But the reality is, Dekembe only played in a Nuggets uniform for 5 years. Jokic is already on his 7th, with much higher production each and every year. So I’m sorry Mutombo, not today. No no no.
Great player in the 70’s. Only played for the Nuggets (ABA and NBA) for 4 years. Sorry Bobby, you were never really a consideration.
David Thompson and Alex English are where it gets tricky.
Thompson was one of the most skilled players the NBA has ever seen. The guy was the #1 overall pick in the 1975 ABA and NBA draft. Nicknamed “Skywalker”, Michael Jordan once said, “The whole meaning of vertical leap began with David Thompson.” Bill Walton once described Thompson as, “Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, and LeBron James rolled into one.” (Wikipedia copied this blog, not the other way around. Don’t believe anything different).
His rookie year, Thompson won the ABA All-Star Game MVP, Rookie of the Year, and came in second to Julius Erving in the Slam Dunk Contest. After the ABA and NBA merged the next year, Thompson made the All-Star game 4 straight years for the Nuggets. In 1978, he lost out on the scoring title to George Gervin by 1 percentage point after scoring 73 points against the Detroit Pistons in the last game of the season.
Following 1978, David Thompson was looked at as having the potential to be the best basketball player to ever play the sport. The next season, fresh off a then record-setting contract extension ($4 million over 5 years), Thompson injured his foot and missed the rest of the year. To his credit, he came back the next season and averaged 25.5 points per game. The next year his PPG average dipped to 14.5. Why you might ask?
Well, quite frankly, he fell victim to the 80’s…
He became addicted to cocaine…(for the nerds who didn’t get that).
The Nuggets, picking up what he was putting down/in his nose, traded David Thompson to Seattle the next year. He was never the same player after that.
NOT persuaded by the nose candy, English quietly became the leading scorer in the entire NBA for the decade of the 1980’s. An incredible accomplishment unfortunately not rewarded by the morons who selected the NBA 75, a collection of the 75 best players in basketball history.
English is also 20th on the NBA all-time scoring list, ahead of guys like Jerry West, Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, and Dwayne Wade.
He played 10 years with the Nuggets (all in the 80’s) and his scoring averages looked like this:
Pretty damn good.
English made the All-Star team 8 straight years for the Nuggets, but never once had a 1st Team All-NBA season, making the All-NBA 2nd team 3 times. He made the Western Conference Finals once with the Nuggets, losing in 5 games.
So while David Thomson’s career with the Nuggets was short, it was incredibly explosive. And while Alex English was never considered one of the 5 best players in the league, he maintained an extremely high level of play for a decade with Denver.
Due to the longevity and consistency, I’ll give the nod here to Alex English.
The question then becomes:
Has Nikola Jokic already passed Alex English as the greatest player in Nuggets history?
The fact that Jokic is even in this discussion is insane.
Nikola Jokic has won an MVP (the first in Nuggets history), has 2 First Team All-NBA selections (something English never accomplished), and is already 7th (about to pass Wilt Chamberlain in 6th) all-time with 74 career triple-doubles. He just turned 27 years old.
The accomplishments and accolades the Joker has accumulated in his short career thus far don’t even tell the whole story. Jokic has quite literally changed the game of basketball. He’s a Center playing Point Guard. He may be the most unique player the NBA has ever seen.
So I’m sorry Alex English, George Karl is right.
Nikola Jokic is already the best player the Denver Nuggets have ever had.
So does being the best Nugget of all time automatically give Jokic the ultra-exclusive 4th spot on this Mt. Rushmore?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Walker just went into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Colorado Rockie, for example. But LW didn’t start or finish his career with the Rockies… Also, are we really going to have multiple Rockies on a Colorado sports Mt. Rushmore? I say no. Sorry Larry, you’re out.
I briefly want to mention Nolan here, who was the best defensive baseball player I’ve ever seen and well on his way to being on this Mt. Rushmore. However, he demanded a trade. While the Rockies did him dirty, and in no way is that situation similar to the way that Carmelo Anthony forced himself out of Denver, it counts all the same. Sorry Nolan, you’re out.
Arguably the best Goalkeeper the NHL has ever seen, Roy was a big part of why the Avalanche won those 2 Stanley Cups. The knock on him of course is that he played less than half of his career in Colorado. Roy had an equally successful run in Montreal where he won his first two Stanley Cups with the Canadiens. Roy finished his career in Colorado, but unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to start it there.
An Avalanche legend, and in his prime, maybe the most talented player to ever step on the ice for Colorado. Looking at his career compared to Sakic, it’s so similar. They both have the 2 Stanley Cups, both have a Hart Trophy (MVP), and both he and Sakic had 3 First Team All-NHL selections. Forsberg won the Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year), while Sakic won the Conn Smythe Trophy (Stanley Cup MVP). But…Forsberg didn’t finish his career in Colorado like Sakic did. Joe Sakic was also more consistent for a longer period of time. Also, if you ask Avalanche fans, they’d probably take Patrick Roy over Peter Forsberg if having to choose who was more valuable to those championship teams. And for that reason…
The final two guys we’d have to consider would both be Denver Broncos: Terrell Davis and Von Miller.
TD has a regular-season MVP and both were Super Bowl MVP’s. Von is the Broncos all-time sack leader and the best defensive player the Broncos have ever had (sorry Steve Atwater).
TD was the best running back in the NFL for 4 years, from 1995 to 1998. Davis, unfortunately, didn’t have much of a career after that. We all know what happened (why’d you have to go for that tackle TD!), and by 2001, after 3 injury-plagued years, TD’s career was over. He produced one of the best 4 year stretches a running back has ever had, it’s just too bad it couldn’t have lasted longer. Sorry TD, this one hurts, but you’re out.
He not only won the Broncos a Super Bowl, he basically single handedly won the Broncos every playoff game that year. The 2015 playoffs for Von just might have been the most dominant playoff performance by one defensive player in the history of football. He was that special. To be honest, I don’t really have a knock on Von here. He went to the Rams last year and won another Super Bowl, but if he comes back this year and plays for the Broncos…
That very well might put him back in the running for that final Mt. Rushmore spot.
But for now…
Sorry Von. If you come back and win another Super Bowl in Denver, we’ll talk.
Other guys to consider:
Love ya buddy, but you’re just as much a Colt as you are a Bronco (even if you secretly tell your friends and family otherwise ;)). You’re out.
“The Franchise”, Floyd Little was the greatest sports figure in Colorado history until John Elway came around. This was the man who generated enough fan interest in Denver, he singlehandedly kept the owners at the time from moving the franchise out of Colorado. A Hall of Fame running back and a Hall of Fame college player at Syracuse, the guy was considered one of the best of his generation. Unfortunately, Little didn’t have any jaw-dropping statistical seasons, and he didn’t really win any major individual or team awards. Maybe I’m just too young for you Floyd. Either way, you’re out.
Possible future Mt. Rushmore candidates:
All 4 guys would have to lead their teams to a MINIMUM of 2 championships (along with other accomplishments).
To be honest, mentioning these guys is kind of a moot point because Nikola Jokic isn’t going anywhere. Unless the Joker completely falls off a cliff in the next couple of years, those guys will have to do some ridiculous things to get on this mountain.
So there you have it. I’ve eliminated every other player that could possibly have made this Mt. Rushmore over Nikola Jokic.
The Joker is officially in my Mt. Rushmore of Colorado Athletes.
Congratulations Big fella.