Best of 2013-14: Mutombo on hand for Nuggets reunion

Denver beat Clippers as franchise celebrated 1993-94 playoff team
by Aaron Lopez

As Dikembe Mutombo ducked through a metal detector, former Nuggets coach Dan Issel and forward LaPhonso Ellis playfully chided him for being late and then welcomed him with handshakes and hugs.

“This whole team looks like it could play right now,” Issel said with a smile.

“No,” Mutombo quickly replied. “I’m too old.”

Ellis, Issel and Mutombo were among the nine players and coaches who attended a 20th anniversary celebration for the 1993-94 team at Pepsi Center on March 17.

The memorable tribute took place at halftime of Denver’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers and ranks No. 3 in our countdown of the top Nuggets games of 2013-14.

Wearing the 1993-94 throwback uniforms, the Nuggets beat the Clippers behind double-doubles from Kenneth Faried and J.J. Hickson, but the game proved to be secondary to the celebration of Denver’s historic first-round upset of the Seattle SuperSonics.

The players in attendance were Ellis, Mutombo, Darnell Mee, Mark Randall and Reggie Williams. Issel was joined by former assistants Mike Evans and Gene Littles.

“It’s amazing that you leave the game 20-something years and you come to the stadium and you still have the same loyal fans who have watched you over those years,” Mutombo said. “They’re still here and they still love you and they wish you were still playing. It was great having the chance to meet so many of them.”

Mutombo and the Nuggets became the first No. 8 seed to win a playoff series when they overcame a 2-0 series deficit to shock the top-seeded Sonics.

“People started to sense that maybe we had something special here,” Ellis said. “To have it culminate with a Game 5 to get ourselves to the second round of the NBA playoffs was pretty special.”

After beating the Sonics, the Nuggets advance to play the Utah Jazz. Denver lost the first three games of the best-of-seven series before rallying to tie the series against a Jazz team led by future Hall-of-Fame teammates Karl Malone and John Stockton.

The Nuggets fell short in Game 7, but they remain one of only three teams in NBA history to force a deciding game after trailing 3-0 in the series.

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