NBA basketball in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s took on the persona of the team often leading the league at the moment, as the league is wont to do. The team often at the forefront of that era was Detroit’s “Bad Boy” Pistons, who won a couple of Championships right before MJ’s Bulls took over for a while. The hard-nosed, enforcer-esque personalities across that Detroit team that led teams all over the league to make sure they had at least one or two bodies that could stand up to that sort of nightly fight.

While that style of play was especially prevalent during an era in which it won Championships, there have always been at least one or two teams putting the ass in Association since the league began. Whether guys like Maurice Lucas, Dennis Awtry, or Kermit Washington in the 70’s, the 80’s and 90’s of Oakley, Mahorn, and Rodman or even the “aughts” of a Kenyon Martin and a Thugget or two, the league has always had at least a few guys dotting the landscape who could set a pick with a little extra vigor.

The Denver Nuggets have their own laundry list of tough guys over the years beyond K-Mart who could make sure the team had enough spine like T.R. Dunn, Calvin Natt, Bill Hanzlik, or a dozen others. An enforcer sometimes really just is a part of your reinforcements.

While it seemed like the NBA of David Stern’s era was trying to stem the narrative that the league was as goon-heavy as the NHL, the league of Adam Silver’s era has taken a more measured approach to the topic, with the gentleman who doles out the punishment for misbehavior a guy who had some up-close-and-personal experience with the topic. Joe Dumars was a key component of those Detroit Bad Boy years, and he knows the compelling case a team can make for being an irritant while forwarding their own cause.

But this year has gotten off to a bit of a whizbang of a start in the extra contact department, with new watchers unsure if they are tuning in for hoops or a very tall form of MMA…

And while the Nuggets have stayed primarily out of that frying pan on the way to an 8-2 start to the season, they will certainly be the targets of a ton of the irritants and agitators you making 2023-24 look like one of the league’s bumpiest rides in a while. If you’re a longtime fan of the league, or even someone who has recently jumped onto the basketball bandwagon, do you like the increased friction amongst the teams and players, or does it seem like we’re a tossed beer away from another Malice at the Palace?


Mike Olson is a weekly columnist for DNVR. The Colorado State University alum was born and raised in Fort Collins and has been writing about Denver sports for the last decade-plus. After over a decade away, he is thrilled to be back in and around Colorado. No place like home.