The Denver Nuggets are shining with a golden hue. For the first time since the team joined the NBA in 1976, they are NBA Finals-bound, with the opportunity to become world champions. As the whole city begins to band together to support the Nuggets, it’s important to consider how unique this team is and why they are worth cheering for.
Steven Reinert, a loyal Nuggets fan who has followed the team closely since the 2012-2013 season, has been along for the ride. He says this season has been significant for many reasons.
“This has been the year of breaking curses. Getting over the Lakers and sweeping them to get to the finals. There is always a feeling amongst Nuggets fans of, ‘When is something bad going to happen?’ This year, it just feels like a big sigh of relief and we can breathe easy now,” Reinert said.
That sense of relief is connected to the belief that this version of the Nuggets has the ability to accomplish something which has never been done before. Jacob Roggero, a devout Nuggets fan, who moved to Denver in 2003 for college, knew extraordinary heights were possible for this team.
“I think it’s special because if you followed the team for 20 or even 10 years, you’ve watched the growth of the iteration of players. They’ve had to overcome adversity but they’ve kept their core intact. There is a level of satisfaction that this group is our team, ” Roggero said.
“I’ve always believed this team was the one [to win the championship] since the beginning of the season. This just seemed like the right group of guys,” Reinert said.
Throughout the organization’s existence, the Nuggets have been viewed as an underwhelming franchise. Despite regular season success, the team was notorious for playoff letdowns, often eliminated in the first round. Roggero recalls that the team was entertaining but did not garner much support from the city.
“It was when [Carmelo Anthony] was fresh on the scene. They still sucked, but they were fun and exciting. You could buy tickets for eight dollars, (currently, the lowest prices for Thursday night’s Game 1 at Ball Arena is upwards of $600 before fees and taxes) but they did not have a good reputation. Even though I liked them, people would still trash them all the time,” Roggero said.
Unlike the Nuggets, the other major sports franchises in Denver have won championships or at least made it to championship games. Successful teams tend to capture the attention and support of the city more easily, as everyone wants to rally behind a winner. Nevertheless, those who have followed the Nuggets throughout the years have a profound appreciation for the significance of this stage in their journey.
“This team really is a group of underdogs. Led by the 41st pick [Nikola Jokic], everyone can relate to being an underdog at one point of our lives,” Reinert remarked. “The team’s demeanor is reminiscent of the city as well. It’s a laid-back locker room, similar to how Denver is generally a fairly mellow city.”
The Nuggets embodying the spirit of the city should be easy to appreciate by everyone in Denver. Even though they have been dominant for the majority of the season, many individuals nationally and locally did not expect this level of success for the team. Along the way, national media outlets such as ESPN, have been downplaying the Nuggets. Denver was portrayed as a fraudulent team, but they’ve proved the skeptics wrong. The Nuggets have been laying low, while emphatically taking care of their competition.
“Jokic has set a tone for the team of coming to work and getting the job done and that’s kind of the idea for lots of places in Colorado. There are a lot of farming communities in Colorado, especially on the Western Slope, that can appreciate that mentality,” Roggero said. “It’s taken hard work, loyalty, and perseverance. It’s easy to root for a team with those qualities.”
Nuggets Coach Michael Malone talks about a winning culture of unity among the team and now they have a chance to unite a whole city and display their champion attributes for the world to see. It all starts Thursday 6/1. The Nuggets host the Miami Heat for Game 1 of the NBA Finals for the first time ever, giving Denver and Nuggets Nation a chance to be part of something special.