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Have the Denver Nuggets ever won an NBA Championship?

The Denver Nuggets are currently competing in their 47th NBA season and having made the Finals, now have a great chance to win it all. Have they ever won an NBA Championship before? Have the Nuggets even reached the NBA Finals before? We dive in below!

Have the Denver Nuggets ever won an NBA Championship?  The Denver Nuggets have never won an NBA Championship. In fact they have never even made the NBA Finals before 2023. The Nuggets previous best NBA Playoff performances have all ended in the NBA Western Conference Finals where they have lost 4 times; 1978, 1985, 2009 and 2020.

The Denver Nuggets made the 2023 NBA Finals by beating the LA Lakers 4-0, this is their best NBA Playoff performance to date.

The Nuggets played in the last ever ABA Finals in 1976, losing to the New York Nets. Both of those franchises would come over in the NBA Merger that summer and start their NBA membership from the 1976-77 season. Since then the Nuggets have until now failed to make it to an NBA Finals, let alone win a championship. That could all change this year, before that happens, we take a look back at how close they’ve come through the years.

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The Denver Nuggets NBA Record

The 2022-23 season is the Nuggets 47th in the NBA. When they finished with the best record in the West in the regular season it meant they had now qualified for the NBA Playoffs 29 times.

In total they had won just 13 Playoff series before 2023. The Nuggets longest sustained run of making the NBA Playoffs came between 2004 and 2013 where they made 10 Playoffs in a row. However Denver were bounced in the first round on 9 of those occasions. With the exception being 2009 where they made the Western Conference Finals with a roster that featured Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson and Chauncey Billups.

Denver Nuggets All Time NBA Record 
Year of NBA PlayoffsRegular Season RecordPlayoff ResultPlayoff Series Won
197750-32Lost Western Conference Semi-Finals (first round)0
197848-34Lost Western Conference Finals1
197947-35Lost Western Conference First Round0
198030-52Missed PlayoffsNA
198137-45Missed PlayoffsNA
198246-36Lost Western Conference First Round0
198345-37Lost Western Conference Semi-Finals1
198438-44Lost Western Conference First Round0
198552-30Lost Western Conference Finals2
198647-35Lost Western Conference Semi-Finals1
198737-45Lost Western Conference First Round0
198854-28Lost Western Conference Semi-Finals1
198944-38Lost Western Conference First Round0
199043-39Lost Western Conference First Round0
199120-62Missed PlayoffsNA
199224-58Missed PlayoffsNA
199336-46Missed PlayoffsNA
199442-40Lost Western Conference Semi-Finals1
199541-41Lost Western Conference First Round0
199635-47Missed PlayoffsNA
199721-61Missed PlayoffsNA
199811-71Missed PlayoffsNA
199914-36Missed PlayoffsNA
200035-47Missed PlayoffsNA
200140-42Missed PlayoffsNA
200227-55Missed PlayoffsNA
200317-65Missed PlayoffsNA
200443-39Lost Western Conference First Round0
200549-33Lost Western Conference First Round0
200644-38Lost Western Conference First Round0
200745-37Lost Western Conference First Round0
200850-32Lost Western Conference First Round0
200954-28Lost Western Conference Finals2
201053-29Lost Western Conference First Round0
201150-32Lost Western Conference First Round0
201238-28Lost Western Conference First Round0
201357-25Lost Western Conference First Round0
201436-46Missed PlayoffsNA
201530-52Missed PlayoffsNA
201633-49Missed PlayoffsNA
201740-42Missed PlayoffsNA
201846-36Missed PlayoffsNA
201954-28Lost Western Conference Semi-Finals1
202046-27Lost Western Conference Finals2
202147-25Lost Western Conference Semi-Finals1
202248-34Lost Western Conference First Round0

Denver Nuggets 1978 NBA Western Conference Finals

Thing’s started off well for the Nuggets in the NBA. FInishing their inaugural season with a 50-32 record in the 1976-77 season, they finished with the NBA’s second best record behind MVP Kareem Abdul Jabaar’s 53 win Lakers. The Nuggets would lose in their first NBA playoff series 4-2 to the eventual champions the Portland Trail Blazers, led by center Bill Walton.

The following season they would again finish with the West’s second best record, this time beating the Milwaukee Bucks 4-3 to advance to the Conference Finals. The Nuggets would be eliminated by the Seattle Supersonics in 6 games after losing home court advantage in game 2 of the series. The Sonics would lose to the Bullets in the Finals, before emerging with an NBA Championship the following season in 1979.

Denver Nuggets 1978 Playoff Opponents

  • Milwaukee Bucks: Won 4-3 (Conference Semi-Finals)
  • Seattle Supersonics: Lost 4-2 (Conference Finals)

The Denver Nuggets roster for the 1977-78 season was as below;

Denver Nuggets Regular Season 1977-78 (per game stats)
David Thompson238037.827.24.94.5
Dan Issel298234.821.310.13.7
Bob Wilkerson238134.311.45.95.4
Bobby Jones267532.514.58.53.4
Brian Taylor263931.311.62.53.4
Darnell Hillman283322.
Jim Price284922.
Anthony Roberts228219.
Ralph Simpson283218.
Bo Ellis237815.
Mack Calvin307712.
Tom LaGarde227711.342.80.6
Robert Smith22458.
Jacky Dorsey2375.
Norm Cook222511.50.5

Denver Nuggets 1985 NBA Western Conference Finals

After the Nuggets hot start to their NBA lives it would be 7 years before they would reach the Conference Finals again. Winning just 1 playoff series in the 6 seasons between 1978 and 1985 when they made the Western Conference Finals again. This was the first time the Nuggets won 2 NBA Playoff series in a row!

Finishing the regular season with a 52-30 record and second in the West, but 10 games back from a dominant Lakers team, the Nuggets were in a groove. Led by Alex English and Calvin Natt, the Nuggets handled the Spurs 3-2 in the first round before moving on to face Utah in the second round. A comfortable 4-1 win over the Jazz set up a Western Conference Finals showdown between the 1 and 2 seeds. The 1985 Lakers were a fully formed version of Showtime, with Magic in his pomp and Kareem still manning the middle on both ends of the floor leading the team in scoring.

Denver would take game 2 in LA on the back of 40 points from Alex English. However this would be the only game they would win in the series, dropping 2 in Denver before getting smacked 153-109 back in LA as the Lakers closed them out 4-1 and moved on to beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals.

Denver Nuggets 1985 Playoff Opponents

  • San Antonio Spurs: Won 3-2 (1st Round)
  • Utah Jazz: Won 4-1 (Conference Semi-Final)
  • LA Lakers: Lost 4-1 (Conference Final)

The Denver Nuggets roster for the 1984-85 season was as below;

Denver Nuggets Regular Season 1984-85 (per game stats)
Alex English3136.
Calvin Natt2834.
Fat Lever2431.212.857.5
T.R. Dunn2928.
Wayne Cooper2825.412.17.91.1
Dan Issel3621.912.84.31.8
Bill Hanzlik2720.
Elston Turner2518.45.12.72
Mike Evans2917.710.11.52.9
Danny Schayes259.
Joe Kopicki247.33.520.7
Willie White2263.30.90.7

Denver Nuggets 2009 NBA Western Conference Finals

After their 1985 brush with greatness the Nuggets went through some lean NBA years. Making the Playoffs just 7 times in 18 years and winning only 3 Playoff series. Then, in the summer of 2003 things changed.

The Nuggets had the 3rd pick in a stacked NBA draft, headlined by Lebron James and featuring talent such as Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Darko Milicic. James and Anthony were by far the two most favored players in the draft. Based on talent potential the order was simple. James, 1, Anthony, 2. However the Detroit Pistons were not using their own pick, they had finished with the best record in the East and were expecting to make a title push this season (spoilers they won the 2004 title). The Pistons wanted a win now player, so after Cleveland selected Lebron with the 1st pick, the Pistons took Centre Darko Milicic with the 2nd, leaving Denver on the clock with Anthony, Wade and Bosh all available. They took Carmelo Anthony and would make 10 Playoffs in a row.

It wasn’t until 2009 that they finally got out the first round though, making it all the way to the Western Conference Finals. The catalyst for this leap in success was a mid-season trade. Detroit Pistons GM Joe Dumars traded 2004 Finals MVP Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess, and Cheikh Samb to the Denver Nuggets for star point guard Allen Iverson.

The change in point guard ignited Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets. The two players who could have been paired together in 2003 gelled immediately and the Nuggets took on the mentality of a grizzled playoff team, with elite scorer Anthony lighting teams up. Dispatching New Orleans and Dallas 4-1 in the first two rounds the Nuggets would once again face a dominant Lakers team in the Finals. Led by Kobe and Pau Gasol, the Lakers were formidable Western conference Finals opponents. The Nuggets managed to steal game 2 in LA. Coming back to Denver 1-1 and hoping to leave 3-1 up. Unfortunately Kobe and the Lakers were too much, winning game 3 in Denver and eventually winning in 6 games on their way to the 2009 NBA title.

Denver Nuggets 2009 Playoff Opponents

  • New Orleans Hornets: Won 4-1 (1st Round)
  • Dallas Mavericks Won 4-1 (Conference Semi-Final)
  • LA Lakers: Lost 4-2 (Conference Final)

The Denver Nuggets roster for the 2008-2009 season was as below;

Denver Nuggets Regular Season 2008-2009 (per game stats)
Allen Iverson3334118.72.76.7
Chauncey Billups327735.317.936.4
Carmelo Anthony246634.522.86.83.4
Kenyon Martin31663211.762
J.R. Smith238127.715.23.72.8
Anthony Carter337822.
Linas Kleiza248222.29.940.8
Chris Andersen307120.
Dahntay Jones287918.15.42.11
Renaldo Balkman245314.753.80.6
Chucky Atkins34148.21.90.42
Johan Petro232782.22.30.4
Juwan Howard3537.
Sonny Weems22124.
Cheikh Samb24640.71.50.2
Jason Hart30113.

After a first round exit in 2010 and Anthony pushing for a mid season trade to the bright lights of New York and the Knicks in 2011, the Nuggets would fade out. Eventually missing the Playoffs for 5 seasons in a row between 2014 and 2018.

Denver Nuggets 2020 NBA Western Conference Finals

In the Summer of 2014, deep into the second round of the NBA Draft, during a Taco Bell Commercial the Nuggets entire future was about to change. With the 41st pick of the 2014 NBA Draft the Denver Nuggets selected a player no one had ever heard of. Nicola Jokic. There was no fanfare, there was no analysis or breakdown of what he might bring to the team.

The moment future Hall of Famer Nicola Jokic was selected by the Denver Nuggets in 2014

His impact wasn’t immediate, but it was long lasting. The future multiple time NBA MVP wouldn’t make his NBA debut until 2015, he wouldn’t become a full time starter until the 2017-18 season. The 7ft1 Serbian Centre would however showcase an unerring ability to playmake from all over the court, an ability to push the ball up the floor in translation like Magic Johnson and shot making that would make Steph Curry proud. He wasn’t complete, but he was prepared to work. Every season he grinded and got better.

Then during the 2019-20 season the world stopped. The Covid Pandemic gripped the globe. The NBA would eventually restart in the Orlando Bubble and Jokic was ready to shine. Flanked by the emerging Jamal Murray and the young Michael Porter Junior, Jokic led the Nuggets past both Utah and the Clippers in 7 games. Proving he had the stamina for the Playoffs. They would fall in 5 games to the Lebron/Davis Lakers who would go on to win the title that year. This season was a mile marker though, the Nuggets, led by Coach Mike Malone and Nicola Jokic were a real NBA force.

Denver Nuggets 2020 Playoff Opponents

  • Utah Jazz: Won 4-3 (1st Round)
  • LA Clippers Won 4-3 (Conference Semi-Final)
  • LA Lakers: Lost 4-1 (Conference Final)

The Denver Nuggets roster for the 2019-20 season was as below;

Denver Nuggets Regular Season 2019-2020 (per game stats)
Will Barton29583315.16.33.7
Jamal Murray225932.318.544.8
Nikola Jokić24733219.99.77
Gary Harris255631.810.42.92.1
Jerami Grant257126.6123.51.2
Paul Millsap345124.311.65.71.6
Monte Morris247322.491.93.5
Torrey Craig295818.
Malik Beasley234118.
Mason Plumlee296117.
Michael Porter Jr.215516.
PJ Dozier232914.
Keita Bates-Diop247145.32.40
Troy Daniels28612.74.310.5
Juancho Hernangómez243412.
Bol Bol20712.
Tyler Cook2229.5220
Jordan McRae28482.31.31
Jarred Vanderbilt2094.
Noah Vonleh2474.
Vlatko Čančar22143.

The signing of Aaron Gordon added some much needed size and physicality and defense to the squad. But injuries to both Murray and Porter Jnr would derail the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Finally, in time for the 2023 NBA Playoffs the Nuggets have made light work of the Timberwolves, the Suns and the Lakers to reach the NBA Finals.

Have the Denver Nuggets ever won an NBA Championship? No. BUT. Watch. This. Space.