RJP: Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans

The Retired Jersey Project is chugging along! (Read this if you need to catch up on the rules.)

There’s not much to say about either the Denver Nuggets or New Orleans Pelicans on the retired jersey front, albeit for vastly different reasons. The Nuggets have been around for over 50 years. They have six retired jerseys and I’m hard-pressed to add anyone to the list at the moment.

Here’s their current roster of honorees:

  • #2 Alex English

  • #12 Fat Lever

  • #33 David Thompson

  • #40 Byron Beck

  • #44 Dan Issel

  • #55 Dikembe Mutombo

As for the Pelicans, they are officially considered to have started in 2002 when the original Charlotte Hornets moved to Louisiana. By NBA fiat, none of the Charlotte history counts in their franchise annals. They’ve retired just one jersey: #7 for Pete Maravich since he’s a Bayou State legend.

So, uh, thanks for reading this edition of ProHoopsHis…

HOLD ON!

There is one thing these teams can do. Banners for the New Orleans Buccaneers and the original Denver Nuggets!

Stop! Banner Time

The (Original) Denver Nuggets

I’m not even gonna try and pretend I know all the ins and outs of the original Nuggets. They began as an AAU squad in the early 1930s sponsored by Safeway and Piggly Wiggly. My expertise is not in the world of amateur and industrial league basketball, but these Piggly Wigglys apparently were one of the best teams in that realm during the Great Depression and going into the 1940s.

Moline Dispatch, October 29, 1949

In 1946 they took on the “Nuggets” moniker and in 1948 they joined the NBL becoming unadulterated professionals. Problem was they kind of stunk during their time with the NBL and then NBA.

In 1948-49, the Nuggets finished with an 18-44 record. In 1949-50, they rocked an 11-51 record. After this, the Nuggets left the NBA joining the National Professional Basketball League and took on the moniker “Refiners.” This lasted one season before the two-decade-old franchise folded.

Now here’s the kicker…

Rock Island Argus, October 29, 1949

These Nuggets were in the NBA’s first game. There’s a reason the advert above says league opener. October 29, 1949, they took to the road to play in Moline, Illinois, versus the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. These Nuggets in their lone NBA season were led by dribbling whiz and jump shot pioneer Kenny Sailors, who hailed from nearby Wyoming.

So for giving Denver its first taste of NBA basketball, inaugurating the NBA itself, and being the furthest west NBA franchise until the Los Angeles Lakers a decade later, the original Nuggets deserve a banner.

Plus recognition for Sailors’s exploits too.

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New Orleans Buccaneers

The 1969-70 Bucs (WWNO Public Radio)

They lasted only three seasons, but pound-for-pound this is the most successful on-court franchise New Orleans pro basketball has hosted. Founded in 1967 for the ABA’s first season, the Bucs went 48-30 and reached the Finals where they lost a barn-burning seven-game series versus the Pittsburgh Pipers.

This first season of Bucs ball was led by Doug Moe (future Nuggets coaching legend!), Larry Brown (also future Nuggets coach), Red Robbins, and Jimmy Jones.

For the 1968-69 season, the Bucs went 46-32 reaching the Western Division Finals before getting swept by the eventual ABA champs, Oakland Oaks. Jimmy Jones and Robbins were still around as was Steve “Snapper” Jones, but Brown and Moe had moved on (to the Oaks actually).

In their final season, the Buccaneers finished 42-42 and missed the playoffs. The next year they were in Memphis as the Pros thus setting up a grand New Orleans tradition of teams having the hardest MFing time surviving in the bayou.

So let’s hang a banner for the franchise and players Jimmy Jones, Snapper Jones, Red Robbins, Doug Moe, and Larry Brown. And coach Babe McCarthy.

PS - Neat little podcast on the history of the Bucs.

PPS - HOLD ON!