Make no mistake, Carmelo Anthony is one of the most gifted athletes in the NBA today.
His ability to shoot the ball goes almost unmatched, as scoring has always been Melo’s strong suit. Year after year he’s in the top-10 in points per game, and Anthony has shown he is comfortable making the clutch last-second shot to win contests as well.
And while no one doubts that Melo is smooth when it comes to scoring, his all-around game has been questioned before by the likes of Charles Barkley and others.
At 6’8” Melo should be a dominating rebounder, but he only grabs just over six per game. His passing has improved, but he still only averages three assists per contest. And his defense, well, is arguably non-existent.
So, while Anthony might be the talk of the NBA and the American sporting world right now—let’s take a look back and see where he compares to other amazing athletes that played in Denver before him.
Dikembe Mutombo—Deke was by far the best defensive center in the game when he played in Denver. Mount Mutombo, as fans admiringly called him, was selected to the All Star Game as a rookie and was named NBA Defensive Player of the year in his last season with the Nuggets (1995). His finger wagging and crying while clutching the ball after beating the SuperSonics in 1994 will live on in Denver sports lore forever.
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf—Mahmoud was a unique player, twitching due to terrets syndrome, but it didn’t throw off his shot. Abdul-Rauf was constantly one of the best free throw and three-point shooters in the league in the 1990s.
The Blake Street Bombers--Larry Walker, Dante Bichete, Andres Gallaraga and Vinny Castilla gave Coors Field a history of long flies and magical endings from the beginning.
Ubaldo Jimenez--Rockies Ace is truly magical. Pitched team's first ever no-no earlier this year.
Carloz Gonzalez--Legit six tool player. Yes, he's also humble.
Terrell Davis--It's interesting how the brightest stars burn out the quickest. He was plain prodigious, gaining over 2,000 yards in 1998, TD was also the NFL MVP that year, and was Super Bowl XXXII's MVP as well. Should be in the HOF, but may not make it because of his injury shortened career.
Rod Smith--The greatest undrafted wide receiver in the history of the NFL. Has Broncos reception, yards and touchdown records.
Melo is great, but he’s definitely not the greatest Denver athlete of all time.
In fact, he’s not even the best Nuggets player of all time, as you will see as this list progresses.
Troy Tulo is the only player on the list that is currently playing, besides Melo.
Tulo, the Colorado Rockies marvelous fourth year shortstop, earned a spot on this list just higher than Melo because he plays as hard as possible on both ends, offensively and defensively.
Tulowitzki is in the middle of one of the best months a baseball player has ever enjoyed, as he’s hit an insane 15 homeruns and 40 RBI in September alone, and the month is yet to be over.
But, he also plays the most important position defensively, and over his career, Tulo owns the best fielding mark in baseball (.986 percent).
All-around, Tulowitzki is arguably the best athlete in the Centennial State currently playing.
Sharpe revolutionized the NFL game for the tight end position. No longer is it just used as a sixth offensive lineman, tight ends are vital piece to offensive strategy in the NFL today, and they can thank Sharpe partly for their success.
Sharpe’s 815 receptions and 62 touchdowns were number one all-time for a tight end when he retired in 2003, and he played in eight Pro Bowls while being named a First team All-Pro four times over his storied career.
“Super” Joe was definitely superb on the ice. The Avalanche’s captain was magical at shooting the puck with his hard and quick wrist shots, but he was even more deft at passing.
Sakic ended his career ranked 14th all-time in goals scored, and 11th all-time in assists, and he was an essential piece to the Avs winning Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001.
Roy was remarkable. “Saint Patrick” was heavenly when he was on the ice, and he was the winningest hockey goalie of all time when he retired (551).
Roy was the best goaltender in the game through two decades, and he won four Stanely Cups, two with the Montreal Canadiens and two with Colorado’s Avalanche.
He was always a character and competitor, once telling Jeremy Roenick, “I can’t really hear what Jeremy says, because I’ve got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears,” in his silly French-Canadian accent.
Mr. Rockie has played for the team for 14 seasons—enduring a great amount of hardships along the way.
The Rockies never made the playoffs in his first 10 years, abut that didn’t stop Helton from beltin’ the baseball. Todd holds Rockies records for hits (2,230), home runs (332), doubles (526), walks (1,193), runs scored (1,269), RBIs (1,236), on-base percentage (.424), games played (1,924), total bases (3,822) and other categories as well. But, what may be his most impressive stat is his 522 career doubles, which ranks him third all time in the category.
When Helton retires, the Monforts must erect a statue in his honor outside of Coors Field.
Thompson was there with MJ on induction day.
The “Skywalker” was straight up sick.
Thompson played for the ABA/NBA Nuggets, and was the only player in history to be named MVP of both ABA/NBA All Star Games. He once scored 73 points in a game, as he and George “Iceman” Gervin battled for the scoring title until the very last game of the 1977-78 season.
Thompson also competed in the first ever dunk contest, which took place in Denver’ McNichol’s Arena, although he lost to “Dr. J” Julius Erving.
English was Melo before Anthony was even born.
Alex English, who also played small forward, was an eight-time All Star, a three-time All-NBA Second Teamer and was the NBA scoring champion as well.
His 25,613 career points are easily the most ever scored by a Nuggets player, he was the first ever player to score 2,000 points in eight straight seasons, and he still ranks 13th overall in points scored over his career.
English was amazing, and because of that, he’s in the Professional Basketball Hall of Fame.
Speaking of Hall of Fame, Floyd Little just got into Professional Football’s Hall of Fame this year.
Little was extraordinary in the 1960s and 70s, basically the best running back in the AFL/NFL at the time.
Little was nicknamed “The Franchise” because he saved the Denver Broncos organization in their early years as the only player that made a difference, and he ended his career as the seventh leading rusher at the time (6,323 yards). Little led all of professional football in rushing from 1968-73, and scored 54 touchdowns over that time.
How could we have this list and not include the Duke of Denver?
John Elway, simply put, is the greatest athlete to ever grace the Denver landscape, and he’s also the greatest quarterback in the history of the league in many people’s opinion.
Elway retired the winningest QB of all time (148), was second in yards (51,475), was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection (five times All Pro), was the 1987 and 1993 NFL MVP, was part of the 1990s NFL All Decade team, is the only Denver Bronco to have his number retired and was the first ever Broncos player to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Elway ended his career winning back-to-back Super Bowls (the Broncos first ever championships) and he was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIII.
Rich Kurtzman is a ColoradoStateUniversityAlumnus and a freelance journalist. Along with being the CSU Rams and Fort Collins Beer Bars Examiner, Kurtzman is the Denver Nuggets and Denver Broncos Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and the Colorado/Utah Regional Correspondent for stadiumjourney.com.