Class never retires. Or rests. When Nikola Jokic passed him — literally, in this case — for the Nuggets’ all-time assist record late this past Wednesday, Alex English immediately fired off a tweet hailing the two-time reigning NBA MVP.
“I couldn’t think of a better player (to do it),” English explained to me by phone from his native South Carolina on Thursday. “I’m honored.
“Every record that I have there, he’ll break.”
Including the big one.
“Eventually, he’ll be the (Nuggets’) all-time leading scorer,” said English, whose 11 seasons of silky greatness have topped the franchise’s scoring charts since 1990. “I think he’s going to be there.
“He’ll just eclipse me, eventually, as the all-time leading scorer. But I don’t mind. When people break these records, it’s like, ‘That’s awesome,’ like LeBron (James) is looking to break Kareem (Abdul-Jabar’s) records. My all-time scoring record has been in place a while. I think records are made to be broken. That’s something you have to prepare for.”
You know what else the Nuggets legend, who just turned 69 years young, is preparing for? Watching Denver go on an insanely long, insanely fun NBA Playoffs run.
“I’m telling you, they’ve got a good squad that’s built for longevity,” English said, “and built for making it into the playoffs and winning the (NBA) championship.”
These Nuggets remind him of the 2009 Western Conference finalists that got Kobe-ed. And the 1985 Western Conference finalists English helped carry to within three wins of playing for a league crown before injuries — and the 1-2 punch of James Worthy and Byron Scott — cut those dreams short.
“I really like the squad,” English said of the Nuggets, who take a conference-best record of 32-13 into Friday’s showdown with Indiana looking for nine wins in a row.
“They’ve got a lot of experience. They’ve got great bench guys that can come in like Bones (Hyland) and (Bruce) Brown — these guys, they’re an upgrade from what they’ve had in the past. And (there’s) MPJ. And Jamal Murray looks like he’s back and I just pray to God that he stays healthy. Then The Big Guy.”
Spoiler alert: The Big Guy — who heads into the weekend averaging 25.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 9.9 assists, nearly a triple-double per night — is English’s pick, at the season’s midway point, to bag a third straight MVP award.
“He’s the all-time great,” the Nuggets legend said.
“(This season) puts him in the stratosphere with the Abdul-Jabars, the Jordans, the Jameses, the Oscars (Robertson), the greatest. The greatest of the great.
“The only other person that I like as well is (Memphis star) Ja Morant. I think he’s inspired and (carried) this team like no other player other than Jokic, as far as controlling the game and making things happen. And he’s got a good squad around him as well.”
Just not as good as the Nuggets, who rallied to beat Minnesota at midweek despite being outrebounded (26-24) and getting 10 shots blocked.
Much like the Avs at this time a year ago, this bunch can light up the opposition whenever it flips the switch, outscoring the Wolves in the fourth quarter, 34-23.
“They’re right in sync and they just keep pounding and pounding and pounding,” English chuckled.
“They’re playing great basketball right now. This might be the opportunity for me to be able to come (to Denver) for the NBA Finals to watch them play. That’s my hope.”
The Blade knows. When your stars get stuck in second or third gear and you’re winning anyway, that’s not the sign of a good team. It’s the mark of a great one.