NUGGETS

Former Nuggets sharpshooter Walter Davis passes away

Nov 2, 2023, 3:02 PM | Updated: 6:35 pm

Walter Davis...

(Photo by Tim DeFrisco/Allsport/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tim DeFrisco/Allsport/Getty Images)

By the time Walter Davis joined the Denver Nuggets in 1988, his All-Star days were behind him. But his capability to accumulate points in a hurry was not.

The 6-time All-Star, who played most of his final four NBA seasons with the Nuggets, died Thursday morning in Charlotte, N.C. while visiting family. The University of North Carolina athletic department announced that Davis died of natural causes.

He was 69 years old.

For most of his career, Davis was actually a thorn in the Nuggets’ side. Playing for their Western Conference rivals, the Phoenix Suns, Davis was the 1978 NBA Rookie of the Year, helping make the Suns a perennial contender through the late 1970s and early 1980s. He averaged at least 20.0 points per game in six of his first 10 seasons.

Davis also earned an Olympic gold medal, playing for the United States national team at the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal.

But Davis became ensnared in one of the major problems of the day. Twice while with the Suns, Davis entered rehabilitation for a cocaine addiction that he ultimately conquered. However, the Suns opted not to re-sign him 1988, leading Davis to join the Nuggets.

Coming off the bench for Doug Moe and later Paul Westhead, Davis averaged at least 15.6 points per game in each of his first three Nuggets seasons. The team included him in a three-way trade during the 1990-91 season, sending him to Portland. But Davis returned the following season to complete his 15-year career.

Before his NBA career, the Pineville, N.C. native made his name as a standout at the University of North Carolina. He guided the Tar Heels to the national-championship game in 1977, where they fell to Marquette, 67-69. The Suns subsequently drafted him with the No. 5 overall pick, launching him to stardom.

But Davis’ first brush with fame actually came at Carolina. In 1974, he capped one of the most unfathomable comebacks in college-basketball history, launching a 25-foot, game-tying shot as regulation expired to complete a comeback from 8 points down with 17 seconds remaining — a rally that came 12 years before the three-point shot arrived full-time in the college ranks.

“Sweet D” always had a knack for the big-time shot.

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