Step right up, folks. See David, the Flying Boy. See him roar and soar, slam and jam. You'll sigh and die as you watch him sky. Step on up. Thrill to the eerie silence of White Bobby No-Noise. Bobby does the impossible and then says nothing. He goes up where no Caucasian has ever trod before. Watch him get really quiet.
Here's Danny the Gap. The Man with the Missing Teeth. Don't get close, folks. If Danny spots a chance for two, he'll eat the rim with his gums alone.
And over here we got Monte, the Magic Dwarf. He throws the alley-oop and makes himself tiny. And Kind Ralphie, the nicest person in captivity. He kills whole cities with kindness. Here is Ancient Byron, one of the World's Oldest Living Forwards. How old is he? Maybe 200. Nobody knows where Ancient Byron came from or when he's going back.
But now, for you ladies, our feature attraction. Let's hear it for the coach's blow-dry curls and his Long Island-Dixie accent. It's Ragman Larry, the human clotheshorse. Thrill to his velvets. Gasp at his leathers. Touch his suedes. Don't be fooled by those deep circles under the eyes, girls. He's just a tad. Around the tent we call him Kid Cardin. Heh heh. Watch him scream. Hear his strategy: "No puka-shell necklaces in February, boys; no turtlenecks in April."
The Denver Nuggets are not unlike some traveling side show of freakish wonders who never play the big time. David Thompson jumps and Bobby Jones defends and Dan Issel shoots and Monte Towe cheers and Ralph Simpson passes and Byron Beck hooks and Coach Larry Brown flashes his elegant wardrobe and the Nuggets keep winning while pro basketball's most rabid fans wonder where it all leads.
As the American Basketball Association writhes on, preparing to meet its fate (to fold? to merge?), the league's most conspicuous success story has been lost in the shuffle. It is hardly necessary to go into the legal tangles and boring mumbo jumbo of the NBA-ABA situation in order to realize the true irony of the Denver franchise. In a league which has been "consolidated" from 10 teams to seven—theoretically making it deeper, stronger and more balanced—here are the Nuggets absolutely running away and hiding from the competition. Following last week's victories over St. Louis, Indiana and Virginia, Denver was 6� games ahead of its closest challenger, the New York Doctors.
The Nuggets have five of the top nine percentage shooters in the league and are averaging six points a game better than anybody else. They beat the All-Star crew from the rest of the ABA in front of one of the five 17,000-plus sellout crowds they have had so far this season in McNichols Arena. They are drawing an average of nearly 13,000 at home and are taking in more money than all but two pro franchises, Los Angeles and New York of the NBA.
But who knows of this phenomenon? Denver games are not on national television. Denver box scores do not appear on most sports pages. In certain large media outlets one still encounters references to the " Denver Rockets," a moniker two years dead.
The prospect of wallowing in national obscurity while forging a 54-20 record with four of the best players in the game would be enough to shatter most pro teams. Yet the Nugget players show no signs of resentment toward the NBA; nor do they despair over the future of their own ragamuffin league. Veterans such as Simpson and Issel have become resigned to an Avisian posture and inured to rumors of an ABA collapse. As for Jones and Thompson and the other youngsters, they are having too much fun to care.
Denver President and General Manager Carl Scheer, who is an anomaly in the ABA—being both intelligent and shrewd—is leading the charge for a "super series" between the ABA and NBA champions this spring. Though Dick Vertlieb of Golden State and Red Auerbach of Boston, the teams most likely to be the NBA representative, are his personal friends and would probably go for it, Scheer knows it is folly to think they could get sanction from the NBA unless the series were tied up with the NBA's renegotiated TV package.