The skills of Robert “Ace” Gruenig helped establish Denver as a respected amateur and semi-pro basketball town. He led Denver-area teams to three AAU Championships and was named an AAU All-American 10 times during his career.
The 6′ 8″ Gruenig spent his youth pounding the hardwood in Chicago developing a wide array of shots he could make with either hand, including his trademark hook shot. In 1934, after spotting Gruenig at an AAU tournament in Kansas City, Colorado businessman William Haraway recruited him to play for the Denver Safeway-Piggly Wiggly team. Gruenig’s arrival in 1935 coincided with the beginning of an era of AAU basketball in which Denver hosted the championship tournament for over thirty years.
Gruenig’s size and grace made him one of basketball’s greatest centers. In 1943, he won the Los Angeles Sports Award Medallion as the nation’s best basketball player. Although he retired from AAU basketball in 1948, Gruenig returned to play one more season with the newly formed Denver Nuggets. In 1957, Gruenig was named to the Helms Foundation Hall of Fame.
The skills of Robert “Ace” Gruenig helped establish Denver as a respected amateur and semi-pro basketball town.