DENVER — When the Denver Nuggets summoned Fat Lever from his Phoenix-area home and asked if he'd want to attend their Tuesday night preseason matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Nuggets' legend who played in Denver for six seasons from 1984-90 figured that it would be fun to watch a preseason game and maybe get a tour of the newly-upgraded facility. Instead, president Josh Kroenke shocked Lever and broke the news to him that his No. 12 will forever hang in the Pepsi Center's rafters alongside Alex English, David Thompson, Byron Beck, Dan Issel, Dikembe Mutombo, and coach Doug Moe's 432 wins.
"I wasn't expecting much but to spend some time, and see some the young guys, get a chance to watch a preseason game in person and I get out on the court and it happens that way. It's like okay. It's like 'have I been punked?' Lever said in front of an assembled group of reporters Tuesday. "That's what it was like because I wasn't even expecting to go on the court at the time."
Kroenke Sports and Entertainment employees got to attend Nuggets practice Tuesday morning ahead of Denver's matchup with the Thunder and watched as president Josh Kroenke, who along with president of basketball operations Tim Connelly and vice president of basketball administration Lisa Johnson, were instrumental in making the event come together, presented Lever with his 80's era skyline threads and added that the organization would retire it on Dec. 2 when Denver hosts the Los Angeles Lakers.
"I had no idea and as I stand here, I'm still in shock," Lever said.
Lever's announcement comes prior to the start of the 51st season of Nuggets basketball and the team is celebrating their 50th anniversary by welcoming back many of their legends. The team already announced that on opening night, which falls on Oct. 21 when Denver hosts Sacramento, the Nuggets are planning a Legends Celebration where the team will honor those four players who already have their numbers retired. The team will also honor Moe's 432 wins.
"Every time I look (up at the rafters). I always say 'How does Fat not have his jersey retired?'" Nuggets' coach Michael Malone added.
Currently, Lever does some scouting, helps out with Junior NBA events, but also works as an energy consultant in Phoenix. The 6-foot-3 guard, who's 43 triple-doubles are the eighth-most all-time, scored 13.9 points per game for his career but averaged roughly 17 per game over his six seasons in Denver, all of which were coached by Moe.
Those Nuggets teams averaged 46 wins and reached the playoffs all six years.
With the Nuggets set to honor more of their legends this season, some of Lever's teammates from that era could join him at Pepsi Center throughout the year.
"I keep in contact with a lot of those guys to this day, and to come back like we did during the All-Star game in '95 or '98, that was a great experience," Lever said. "But to now come back specifically tied to the players, and the organization, and the fans, and that group of guys that contributed, I think you're going to have more guys that want to come back than can come back."