Denver Nuggets (1948–50)
|Leagues||Missouri Valley 1935–1940
|History||Denver Safeway Pigs
Denver American Legion
Denver Ambrose Jellymakers
|Team colors||DarkBlue, White
|Head coach||Jimmy Darden|
|Championships||3 AAU Tournament (1937, 1939, 1942)|
The Denver Nuggets were a professional basketball team based in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets joined the National Basketball League (NBL) for the 1948–49 season, and then joined the National Basketball Association when the NBL was absorbed by the Basketball Association of America to create the NBA for the 1949–50 season. The Nuggets were the first major professional sports franchise in Colorado, and the first NBA franchise west of the Mississippi.
Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, % = Win–Loss %
|Denver Nuggets (NBL)|
|Denver Nuggets (NBA)|
Nuggets NBA roster
1949–50 Denver Nuggets
NBA Team Roster
|Head Coach: Jimmy Darden|
|F||6'6||Ed Bartels||(North Carolina State University)|
|F||6'4||Bob Brown||(Miami University)|
|C||6'10||Jim Browne||(Tilden High School, Chicago, Illinois)|
|F||6'4||Jake Carter||(Texas A&M University-Commerce)|
|F||6'7||Jack Cotton||(University of Wyoming)|
|F||6'4||Dillard Crocker||(Western Michigan University)|
|G||6'1||Jimmy Darden||(University of Denver)|
|F||6'5||Earl Dodd||(Truman State University)|
|F||6'5||Al Guokas||(St. Joseph's University)|
|G||6'3||Bill Herman||(University of Mount Union)|
|G||6'3||Duane Klueh||(Indiana State University)|
|G||5'10||Bob Royer||(Indiana State University)|
|G||5'10||Kenny Sailors||(University of Wyoming)|
|C||6'6||Jack Toomay||(University of the Pacific)|
|F||6'4||Floyd Volker||(University of Wyoming)|
The Denver Nuggets trace their roots back to 1932 when the original amateur Nuggets were formed as a member of the Amateur Athletic Union. Led by player/coach "Jumping Jack" McCracken, the Nuggets were one of the most powerful amateur athletic basketball teams in the country, winning the 1939 AAU championship and losing the 1940 championship to the Phillips 66ers of Oklahoma. Not playing professionally, its players were given extra jobs by team sponsors, and they played on the stage of the Auditorium Arena (now Ellie Caulkins Opera House). Featuring stars such as McCracken, Robert Ace Gruenig and Vince Boryla, the Nuggets continued as an AAU power throughout their existence, and the AAU has been credited by historians for helping put Denver on the national sports map.
After the 1948-1949 season, however, the Nuggets decided to step out of their amateur status. Rather than join the NIBL who was founded in 1947 and remain amateur, the Nuggets' General Manager, Hal Davis, secured a franchise in the nine-team National Basketball League to play in 1948-49 season. Thus,in n 1948, the National Basketball League awarded Denver its first professional basketball franchise, which took on the people and identity of the Denver Nuggets.
That development occurred just one season after the NBL's Minneapolis Lakers and their star attraction, George Mikan, defected for the rival Basketball Association of America. Davis wanted players to be paid openly for playing basketball, rather than be paid by a corporation for something else in an unregulated way. That 1948–49 team included Morris Udall, best known for serving in the US House of Representatives from 1961 to 1991.
In 1948-49, the Nuggets of the NBL would finish last in the Western Division (incidentally, Denver was the furthest "western" team in the Western Division) and in 1949 they merged with the BAA to form a new league to be named the National Basketball Association of America (NBA). Three players stayed on when the Nuggets became an NBA team, and Leonard wasn't among them. And yet, even though the NBA counts stats from the BAA going back to 1946, they don't count stats from the NBL. So you won't find Leonard or his non-NBA teammates' names mentioned anywhere in the history books, or on sites like Basketball.
When the NBL merged with the BAA (Basketball Association of America) in 1949 and became the National Basketball Association, the Nuggets became an NBA team. The westernmost team in the NBA, the Nuggets were led by player/coach Jimmy Darden, a star shooting guard who joined the amateur Nuggets after leaving the Army as a World War II veteran in 1946. The Nuggets played one season in the NBA, compiling an 11–51 record in the Western Division. The team was disbanded in 1950, leaving Colorado without any major league sports teams until the birth of the AFL's Denver Broncos in 1960.
Connections with current Denver Nuggets
When Denver's second major pro basketball franchise, the Denver Rockets of the American Basketball Association, endeavored to join the NBA, a contest was held in 1974 to give the team a new nickname since the NBA already had the Houston Rockets. The name of Denver's original NBA franchise won, and has been the name of the team ever since. In 1985 one-time amateur Nuggets star Vince Boryla joined the franchise as its president and general manager, and was awarded NBA Executive of the Year that same year. He was President and GM of the Nuggets from 1985 to 1988. The current Denver Nuggets also started out in the same venue as the original Nuggets, the Auditorium Arena (by then modified to hold a pure basketball court, capacity 6,841), playing there from 1967 to 1975.
- AAU National Tournament: 3 (1937, 1939, 1942)
- Runners-up: 6 (1938, 1940, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1948)
- Jimmy Darden (inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, 1989)