No Nugget was more of a Swiss Army Knife than Lafayette “Fat” Lever. He carved the league up, and he did it in nearly every way possible.
Take his averages from the 1987-88 season alone: 18.9 points, 8.1 rebounds 7.8 assists and 2.1 steals per game. That’s assuming a big offensive load, having a huge impact on defense, making players around him better, and mixing it up to grab rebounds on top of everything else.
That was Lever.
The Nuggets won 54 games that season. Lever was an All-Star starter. He put up a near quadruple-double in a game at Chicago – 31 points, 16 rebounds, 12 assists and six steals. He is forever known, however, for his ability to collect triple-doubles by the bunches.
The NBA is dialed-in on them now. Russell Westbrook, last season’s MVP, averaged a triple-double for an entire season. But Lever was putting them up way before they became the talk of the league. He had 43 of them in his career during the regular season, which is eighth all-time in NBA history. He added three more triple-doubles in playoff games.
Lever, hyper-focused during games, fully appreciated what he accomplished looking back on it all.
“When you’re playing, you really don’t pay attention to it that much,” said Lever in 2015, when his career was honored by the Nuggets. “As I look back now, and every time someone throws a stat at me that I wasn’t aware of now sticks out. The triple-doubles come up more now because of (Oklahoma City guard) Russell Westbrook. If I had that kind of athleticism I’d still be playing. But at the same time, it’s one of those things where you remember it, you enjoy it and then you move on. And then you try to share some of those experiences with someone else — your family, your kids, people that I run across. I enjoy it.”
Defensively, Lever’s name is all over the Nuggets record books. He has the most total steals (1,167) and the highest steals average (2.46). The top four steals seasons in Nuggets history? Yep, all belong to Lever. The top five Nuggets seasons in steals average? All Lever, too. He is also second all-time on the Nuggets charts in total assists (3,566) and highest assist average (7.5). He owns the team record for most assists in a game (23 at Golden State in 1989) and owns the team’s NBA-only record for most assists in a half (16, in that same game at Golden State).
In six seasons with the Nuggets (1984-90), Lever averaged 17.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.5 steals. He was All-NBA Second Team in 1986-87 and All-Defensive Second Team in 1987-88). He made two All-Star games while with the Nuggets.
And Lever loved the Nuggets as much as the Nuggets loved him.
“I watch them from a distance on TV, most of the games they play,” Lever said. “I’m very familiar with a lot of the players. To see what’s going on now, good bad or indifferent, I’m still a fan and I enjoy watching the Nuggets play.”