On Monday, May 22nd, two remarkable things happened in the greater Denver Nuggets cosmos. Firstly, and most prominently, Nikola Jokic led the team to its first Finals appearance in franchise history while elsewhere, Nuggets and overall basketball legend Carmelo Anthony announced his retirement from the NBA.

That leaves the Nuggets with a rather tricky math problem. It’s a good one to have, mind you, but in Denver, 2 x 15 = 1. Or in other words, yesterday reminded the basketball community around the world that the Nuggets have two players worthy of a spot in the rafters. However, they both wore / are wearing number 15 which makes any potential jersey retirement more tricky than usual.

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With the Joker still making a run at the chip and Melo’s trade to the Knicks in the middle of the 2010-11 season, both players technically have played just less than eight seasons in Denver at this moment in time. In terms of scoring for the Nuggets, Anthony and Jokic actually rank third and fourth all time, respectively, behind Hall of Famers Alex English and Dan Issel.

A member of the NBA 75th team, Melo will – without a doubt – become a Hall of Famer once he becomes eligible. Over his career, the Jordan Brand signature athlete is highly decorated with 10 All Star Games, a scoring title, and three Olympic gold medals on his résumé. Most notably, Anthony is the NBA’s 9th leading scorer of all time (28.289 points).

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But while his overall career certainly justifies a place in the rafters, Melo’s run with the Nuggets – inseparably linked with the team’s modern era and characteristic baby blue uniforms – was dangerously close to being overshadowed by Nikola Jokic‘s accomplishments already, before the two-time MVP punched the franchise’s Finals ticket with a dominant sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Jokic – who won the Magic Johnson Western Conference finals MVP award, a newly introduced trophy of debatable merit – already boasts two (real) Most Valuable Player awards (’21 & ’22) and his current play lets many experts and fans alike wonder if he should have won a third one this year. [The award went to Embiid who went harder during the final month of the regular season and then went on to watch Jokic in The Finals on TV after being eliminated in the second round of the Playoffs.]

With eight triple doubles this postseason – already the highest mark in NBA history – Jokic is underlining the incredible importance to his team and is demonstrating an overall level of offensive brilliance rarely seen in basketball history. If he is able to replicate this performance on the biggest stage in basketball over the coming two weeks, Denver’s math problem will not become any easier. Or will it?

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Luckily, the Nuggets are years away from having to find a solution for this particular logistical conundrum. Right now, the franchise has more pressing needs on their mind.

An additional side note to put the numbers in perspective:

While wearing the sky blue jersey, Carmelo only took 2,3 threes per game. For comparison and to qualify Melo’s scoring average during a time (’03-’11) before the analytics movement and a highly successful Warriors team spearheaded a league-wide increase in three point shooting: As a center, the Joker shoots more often from beyond the arc (2,9 career 3PA/G) than Anthony did – at least during his Denver years.

As a Nugget, Melo holds career averages of 24,8 points, 6,3 rebounds, and 3,1 assists over 564 games while shooting 47,8% from the field (eFG%). He is a four-time All NBA Team member (three 3rd, one 2nd) with four All Star nominations. [Six and ten nominations overall, respectively.]

Over eight seasons, all of them spent in Denver, Nikola Jokic averages 20,2 points, 10,5 rebounds, and 6,6 assists over 596 games while shooting 58,9% from the field (eFG%). He is a five-time All NBA Team member (three 1st, two 2nd) with five All Star nominations.

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