In December, people usually look back at the previous months—what went well, what didn’t, what’s next—and this year will be no different. But, with the end of the decade, there’s even more to reflect on. It was a turbulent 10 years defined by growth (at least a half a million people poured into the Centennial State) and its impacts, from rising housing costs to political shifts, and more. (Read more about the ’10s top trends). There were championships, elections, and natural disasters. And, NBD, we legalized recreational marijuana. Here’s a look back at some of the decade’s biggest stories.

(Read more: A Decade in Denver: 10 Trends That Defined the 2010s in the Mile High City)

  • Denver is awarded a team for the newly formed American Basketball Association, replacing Kansas City (which was unable to secure an arena for “sufficient playing dates”). Originally named the Larks, they rebranded to the Denver Rockets, named after owner Bill Ringsby’s long-haul trucks.

  • Led by stars David Thompson and Dan Issel, the Nuggets—the winning moniker in a contest to rename the team—defeat the Kentucky Colonels to make their first-ever American Basketball Association championship game. But Coach Larry Brown and his team would fall to Julius Erving and the New York Nets in six games.

  • The American Basketball Association merges with the National Basketball Association, sending the Nuggets, Nets, Indiana Pacers, and San Antonio Spurs to the then-30-year-old league as expansion teams.

  • Behind 37 points from Thompson, the Nuggets defeat the Milwaukee Bucks to advance to the Western Conference Finals in just their second season in the NBA. Once there, they fall to the Seattle SuperSonics in six games.

  • In exchange for power forward George McGinnis, the Nuggets acquire Alex English in a trade with the Pacers. In 11 seasons in Denver, English would become an eight-time All-Star. Today, he remains the Nuggets’ all-time leader in points, games, minutes played, and field goals.

  • After a putrid 11-20 start—which followed a horrific 30-52 season—Coach Donnie Walsh is dismissed, and assistant Doug Moe is appointed the interim head coach. Three months later, he would sign a multi-year contract to remain Denver’s head coach, where he remained for a decade. He would lead the Nuggets to the playoffs nine straight years, including during their then-record 54-win season in 1987–’88. Moe’s 432 career wins are the most by a coach in Nuggets history.

  • With 31 points in a win over the Kansas City Kings, English clinches the NBA scoring title, averaging 28.4 points per game. He’s the first and only Nuggets player to ever do so. Teammate Kiki VanDeWeghe finishes second. Despite that potent one-two scoring punch, the Nuggets lose in five games to the Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals.

  • After trading VanDeWeghe in the offseason, Denver defeats the Utah Jazz to advance to the Western Conference Finals. It goes on to lose to the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in five games. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, this particular shred of history would seem to repeat itself over the years.

  • Despite going 54-28, tied for the third-best record in the league and the franchise’s best winning percentage since joining the NBA, the Nuggets bow out of the playoffs in the Western Conference Semifinals, losing in six games to the Dallas Mavericks. It’s the sixth time in the past seven years they fail to get past the second round of the playoffs.

  • After a 43-39 season and the Nuggets’ fifth first-round playoff exit over the past nine years, Moe is fired. He’s replaced by Loyola Marymount coach Paul Westhead, who led the Lakers to a title in 1980.

  • Following a 24-58 season—which brought his two-year record to 44-120—the worst of any NBA coach during that span—Westhead is let go. In his first season, Denver scored an NBA-best 119.9 points per game but surrendered an astonishing 130.8 points per game, prompting local sports writers to dub the team the “Enver Nuggets.” At the ensuing news conference, Nuggets General Manager Bernie Bickerstaff says, “We feel it was imperative we move in a different direction.”

  • Despite sneaking into the playoffs as the Western Conference’s final team and falling behind two games in a best-of-five first-round series against the NBA-best SuperSonics who won 63 games in the regular season, the Nuggets win three straight games to advance. Center Dikembe Mutombo records eight blocks in the elimination game in Seattle, and Denver becomes the first number eight seed to defeat a number one seed in playoff history. The Nuggets would fall in seven games in the ensuing round to the Jazz.

  • The NBA suspends Nuggets leading scorer Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf for refusing to stand for the national anthem, a move the guard said he made because the United States flag is “a symbol of oppression, of tyranny.” “My beliefs are more important than anything,” he said at the time of his suspension. “If I have to give up basketball, I will.” The season was his last in Denver and within three years, he would be out of the league.

  • Denver finishes the season 11-71. At the time, it’s tied for the second-worst winning percentage by a team in NBA history.

  • The Nuggets finish a lockout-shortened season at just 14-36, missing the playoffs for the fourth-consecutive season, and first-year coach Mike D’Antoni is fired. He would go on to win NBA Coach of the Year honors six years later with the Phoenix Suns.

  • Wal-Mart heir Stan Kroenke buys the Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche, and the then-Pepsi Center for a cool $450 million, ending a prolonged and contentious selling process. He outbids a group led by John Elway.

  • The Nuggets cap off a 17-65 season and miss the playoffs for the 11th time in 13 years. They are tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the worst record in the league, and in the following month’s NBA Draft lottery, lose out on the number one overall pick—and the chance to select high school phenom LeBron James.

  • Denver drafts forward Carmelo Anthony with the number three overall pick in the NBA Draft. Three months earlier, Anthony, a freshman, led Syracuse to its first and only NCAA championship. In his first pro season, Anthony would average a team-high 21 points per game and lead the Nuggets to their first playoff berth since 1995 while finishing second to James in Rookie of the Year voting.

  • George Karl is hired as the Nuggets’ head coach. The former SuperSonics and Bucks frontman holds the position for the next eight seasons, leading Denver to the playoffs each year and amassing 423 wins, second most in franchise history.

  • The Nuggets trade for Philadelphia 76ers superstar Allen Iverson, which gives Denver two of the top 10 scorers in the NBA. But even with Iverson and Anthony on the court, Denver loses in the first round of the playoffs each of the next two seasons.

  • Three games into the season, Iverson is traded to the Detroit Pistons for a package highlighted by former NBA Finals MVP and Denver native Chauncey Billups.

  • Led by the trio of Anthony, Billups, and J.R. Smith, the Nuggets beat the Mavericks in six games to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 24 years. There, they are defeated by the eventual NBA champion Lakers in six games.

  • Denver B-Cycle, a bike-sharing program, launches with 40 stations around the city. READ MORE: The program will end in 2020.

  • The Biennial of the Americas, a bi-annual festival celebrating arts and culture, begins.

  • Marvin Booker dies while in sheriff’s custody at a Denver detention center. His family would go on to file an excessive-force case in 2014 (it was settled for $6 million).

  • The Fourmile Canyon Fire in Boulder County destroys more than 160 homes in 11 days. READ MORE: Meet Coloradans impacted by the fire.

  • The Colorado Rapids beat FC Dallas for their first (and only) MLS Cup, led by Conor Casey and Pablo Mastroeni (who’d both go on to coach the team). READ MORE: Meet Pablo Mastroeni.

  • Former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway returns to the team—in the executive suite.

  • Months after reportedly demanding to be moved, Anthony is traded to the New York Knicks in a three-team deal that brings Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, and Kosta Koufos to Denver. With that core, the Nuggets make the playoffs each of the next three seasons.

  • Michael Hancock defeats former state Senator Chris Romer in a run-off election to become Denver’s mayor (he will win re-election in 2015 and 2019).

  • A deadly listeria outbreak is traced back to cantaloupes from Jensen Farms in Holly, Colorado.

  • The Clyfford Still Museum opens with more than 2,400 pieces of the artist’s work. (The museum will see more than 378,000 visitors by the end of 2019.) READ MORE: Why the museum came to be.

  • After the 2010 census—which showed more than a 16 percent population increase in Colorado—the state set about redistricting its legislative districts. The effort lasts most of the year, involving multiple maps and lawsuits, until the state Supreme Court weighs in on this date. READ MORE: How will the 2020 Census affect Colorado?

  • Nearly 12 years after her World Cup debut, Lindsey Vonn nabs her fourth overall World Cup title.

  • Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective exhibit opens at the Denver Art Museum, one of several exclusive or premier shows throughout the decade, including Becoming Van Gogh, which would open in October 2012. READ MORE: How the DAM got the Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature exhibit.


  • The 200,000-square-foot History Colorado Center opens.

  • With a 9-4 vote, the Denver City Council approves a camping ban, which advocates warn will disproportionately impact the city’s homeless residents. READ MORE: Denver’s efforts to end homelessness.

  • At a showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, a shooter kills twelve people and injuries 70 more. READ MORE: After his son was murdered in the Aurora theatre shooting, Tom Sullivan runs for office.

  • In her first Olympics, in her first event, Centennial swimmer Missy Franklin wins gold in the 100-meter backstroke—and goes on to win three more golds and a bronze at the London Olympics. READ MORE: Meet Missy Franklin.

  • President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney meet on a debate stage at the University of Denver before the 2012 election.

  • Colorado Department of Corrections head Tom Clements is murdered at his home in Monument. READ MORE: Meet Rick Raemisch, who took over the department.

  • At midnight, Colorado begins issuing civil unions to same-sex couples. Two years later, on June 26, 2015, a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizes same-sex marriages nationwide.

  • Despite being named NBA Coach of the Year one month earlier, Karl is fired. Denver went 57-25, still the best record in the franchise’s NBA history, but it lost in the first round of the playoffs for the eighth time in the nine seasons under Karl’s leadership. He is replaced by Brian Shaw, who goes 56-85 before being let go in March 2015.

  • First-basemen Todd Helton retires from the Colorado Rockies, leaving behind a legacy of epic facial hair, a .320 career batting average, and more than 2,500 hits.

Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner is a Denver-based writer and the former Articles Editor for 5280.