News broke on Wednesday that three Denver Nuggets youngsters were selected to the NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge as a part of the league’s All-Star game festivities.

Nikola Jokic, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Jamal Murray are the trio representing the Nuggets in the contest, looking to showcase what the bright future in the Mile High City is all about.

While being named to the contest is an honor, there are certainly bigger and better things the Nuggets youngsters will be looking to accomplish in the future, like many who participated in the contest before them.

Most people know the Nuggets are a young, raw team with the potential to be the next big thing in the league; however, like many teams with promise before them, the Rising Stars Challenge could provide a glimpse into just how bright the future in Denver is.

Over the years, rebuilding teams have been fortunate enough to send multiple players to the game, with winning within the franchise following just a few years after. Hopefully, the Nuggets can experience the same sort of prosperity down the line like their counterparts have since the challenge’s formation back in 1994.

Here’s a look at some of the best tandems of players to play in the Rising Skills Challenge that experienced NBA success in the years following.

1997 Los Angeles Lakers – Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, and Travis Knight 

While Knight’s career wasn’t so eventful, Bryant and Fisher combined for five championships with the Lakers, further establishing the fact that the Lakers are the cream of the crop when it comes to basketball.  Bryant and Fisher were the go-to’s in LA for over a decade, evolving the 2000-2011 Lakers as one of the most successful dynasties of all time.

2002 Memphis Grizzlies – Pau Gasol and Shane Battier

While the two did not end up winning any hardware while playing with the Grizzlies, they did have very eventful and successful individual NBA careers. Gasol won the 2002 Rookie of The Year award as a member of the Grizz, while both he and Battier were named NBA All-Rookies the same year they partook in the challenge.

Gasol, who currently plays for the San Antonio Spurs, is a two-time NBA champion and a six-time All-Star. Battier has been retired for some time, but had an eventful career; also becoming a two-time NBA champion while being named twice to the NBA’s all-defensive team.

2006 Orlando Magic – Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard

Like Gasol and Battier, the two did not win anything while the played together in Orlando; however, they did lead the Magic back to the finals for the first time since Shaquille O’Neal‘s departure in the late 90’s.

For a few years, the Magic were one of the East’s best teams, making the playoffs in six straight seasons with Nelson and Howard leading the charge.

Howard, who is currently playing for the Atlanta Hawks, is a three-time Defensive Player of The Year, and a 8x All-NBA player. Nelson is currently working on getting the Nuggets back to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. He’s made one All-Star appearance and was a 2006 All-Rookie.

2009 Oklahoma City Thunder – Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook 

Back when these two still got along, they were one of the most dynamic duos in the modern era of the game. The two have combined for 13 All-Star appearances and 11 All-NBA nods.

The two rebranded the former Seattle SuperSonics, establishing an identity for the then-new Oklahoma City Thunder. Together, the duo led OKC to playoffs six times,  reaching the finals once in 2012.

Both are in the middle of their primes and are among the most dominant players in the league today.

2012 Cleveland Cavaliers – Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson 

These two were both driving factors in ending the city of Cleveland’s long championship drought. Kyrie more so the Thompson, but both still played, and continue to play critical roles for the Cavs.

Irving, one of the best point guards in the league, won rookie of the year in 2012, being named an All-Star three times since then. The Cavs are currently the best seed in the east with Irving and Thompson both being fundamental points in the team’s success.

2013 Golden State Warriors – Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes 

Everybody knows about the Warriors nowadays; however, back in 2013, when the Warriors were just starting their upswing, Thompson and Barnes were participants in the Rising Stars Challenge.

Fast forward four years, now Barnes and Thompson are both NBA Champions, members of the team with the highest winning percentage in NBA history.

Thompson is still doing his thing for the Warriors, now a 2x All-Star, while Barnes has taken his talents to Dallas, becoming what Mavs fans hope is the face of the franchise, once cornerstone Dirk Nowitzki throws in the towel.


So, anyway you slice it, teams that have had multiple players participate in the league’s Rising Stars Challenge have experienced a fair amount of success. The Nuggets are looking to be that next team to make the jump, and have put themselves in a prime position to become the NBA’s next big thing.

The challenge will provide the juniors the opportunity to showcase their skills to the national and global fans of the sport, and hopefully show the world the beginning of what could be the next golden age of Denver Nuggets basketball.