Years Active: 1992 – 2004
Regular Season Stats: 552 games, 20.8 mpg
8.9 ppg, 4.6 apg, 2.0 rpg, 1.1 spg, 42.5% FG, 78.7% FT
Postseason Stats: 33 games, 13.2 mpg
5.2 ppg, 1.9 apg, 1.1 rpg, 0.7 spg, 38.3% FG, 73% FT
Robert Pack is the quintessential “you had to have been there” player.
He played 13 seasons, but only appeared in half of the possible games due to injury or not being actively rostered by an NBA franchise. From 1995 to 1997, the point guard put up 14.5 points, 7.7 assists, and 1.7 steals a game, but a bevvy of injuries limited him to 127 games throughout those 3 seasons, the supposed peak of his career.
He appeared in the playoffs in 4 different seasons but was basically a non-factor in three of them for the Mavericks, Blazers, and Hornets. The rest of the squads he appered on were moribund: the late-90s Mavericks, the mid-90s Bullets and Nets. If you haven’t noticed yet, Pack never stuck with one team too long either.
So what’s the fuss? You had to have been there!
Robert Pack was absolutely sensational as the point guard for the Denver Nuggets from the 1992-93 season through the 1994-95 season. This guy was listed at 6’2″ but they must have counted his dazzling high-top fade in the measurement. His on-court speed though was not to be denied. Pack could move up and down the court in a flash. It’s the reason why Denver was so insistent on prying him from the Portland Trail Blzaers in the summer of 1992:
Pack yesterday got his first practice with the team, and with it his first look at the team’s Reader’s Digest playbook. What Issel wants to see from Pack isn’t how he runs plays, though. It is how he runs. Pack’s strength is getting the ball upcourt quickly, an ideal trait for Issel’s passing-game offense.
“It’s important, in the passing game, that you get down and get into it before the defenses get a chance to set,” [Denver coach Dan] Issel said. “If you have a point guard who just sort of hammers the ball and brings it down slow, and you let a good defense like Chicago get set, it’s going to be hard to score against it. That’s why we shot 38 percent against the Bulls.”
– Mike Monroe, Denver Post, October 26, 1992
Coach Issel certainly didn’t have to worry about Pack holding up the pace. In fact, the Nuggets were 3rd in the league in pace during the 1992-93 season as Pack and Mahmoud Abdul-Raouf burned the hardwood rubber. Pack in particular was prone not only to set up teammates for baskets but to also do what you had to have been there to see… to do that thing that made him so special…
Pack could jump out the gym and throw down! Sure he really only had one dunk, but when it was consistently being thrown down on men a foot taller than him, it was truly spectacular. The Nuggets though only had a 36-46 record and thus missed the playoffs. The next season, though, Robert Pack and the Nuggets would give not only spectacular final scores, but a stupendous playoff run.
The Nuggets went 42-40 in the 1994 season and snuck into the 8th seed against the Seattle SuperSonics.Falling behind 2-0, the Nuggets came back to force a 5th and deciding game in Seattle. Pack, having played putrid in the previous four games, delivered a stellar performance of 23 points (8-15 FG, 3-5 3PT, 4-4 FT) off the bench. Brian Williams also had a great game off the bench with 17 points and 19 rebounds. The Nuggets behind this bench duo and Dikembe Mutombo upset the #1 seed Sonics. The Nuggets nearly repeated this comeback feet in the 2nd round as they fell behind 3-0 against Utah and forced a Game 7. But the bid fell short.
The 1994-95 season was unfortunately Pack’s apex. He finally gained a starting spot in the Denver lineup but in February of that season hurt his knee ultimately requiring surgery. Traded to Washington the following offseason, Pack never again enjoyed a healthy season as a litany of leg injuries hampered his career.
But believe me, watching this man play in the Mile High City was a thrill a moment that my words can’t do justice to. Even YouTube clips can sort of, but not completely, get the point across.
To fully get the joy of watching Robert Pack’s mid-1990s play, well, YOU HAD TO HAVE BEEN THERE!
And I’m glad I was.