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Thursday / September 28.
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NBA Finals Bring Father and Son Closer

In a small, crowded conference room at UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital, a group of camera crews and reporters stood in front of my dad and me and posed a question: “How does it feel to be going to the NBA Finals?” 

I remember my left leg slightly buckling. Involuntarily, when I am excited, nervous, or perhaps a combination of the two emotions, my body does things I can’t control. Standing there, I look to my dad on my left, as I have done so many times in my life in uncomfortable situations, hoping he would deliver an answer for the both of us. 

“It feels like a dream! I can’t believe we get to go,” remarked my dad, Benjamin. 

A couple of moments prior, former Nugget and current Altitude TV Personality Bill Hanzlik entered the conference with a placard that stated, “UCHealth and the Nuggets are sending us to Game 1!” 

We were given the tickets by UCHealth, but it was all because of the thoughtfulness of the nurses who work in the infusion center at the hospital. My dad has been battling stage IV colon cancer since 2017 and has been going to UCHealth Highlands Ranch for the past four years. 

My dad has built relationships with those who take care of him and the nurses have developed an affection for my dad. They value his kindness, positivity, and his outlook on life. Teresa Griffin, an associate nurse manager at the infusion center, was one of the leading supporters behind sending my dad and me to Game 1.

“What does it mean to be sharing this experience with your dad?” 

The truth is, I wouldn’t be able to explain what this day would mean to me. It had been a lifetime of watching the Nuggets and dreaming about this day. To actually be going to the NBA Finals, the first time Denver hosted a game, with my dad? It meant more than I can even imagine. 

Basketball and the Nuggets infiltrated my life at a very young age and a big reason behind that is my dad. One of my dad’s former jobs was working at DIRECTV, managing their data centers. A benefit of that job resulted in our house having free cable television with all the perks, including my favorite, the NBA League Pass. I loved watching basketball. The Carmelo Anthony-led Nuggets teams were a staple of my childhood.

Before last Thursday night, it was about 16 years since my dad last went to a Nuggets game. We left home early, attempting to soak up as much as we could of our favorite team on the biggest stage in basketball. As we sat in traffic, I looked around at the cars filled with people wearing Nuggets gear. The excitement was palpable. It felt like the entire city was rallying around the team. 

When we entered the arena, the level of excitement reached new heights. My dad and I admired the sea of gold shirts that covered each seat, while the glorious “NBA Finals” graphic filled the jumbotron. We watched Aaron Gordon and Jamal Murray warm up amidst the buzz in the room courtesy of Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight” blaring from the arena’s sound system. I kept telling my dad about how the atmosphere was different from past games I had gone to. We knew it was going to be a special night. 

The roar of the crowd was so loud and the game hadn’t even started. Looking over at my dad, I started to see tears well up in his eyes. I couldn’t believe we were actually there. 

It was inevitable the Nuggets were going to win that game. The team was not going to lose with that kind of atmosphere surrounding them. My dad was adamant about absorbing as much of the game as possible. He made it his plan to not have to leave his seat during any pause of the contest because he didn’t know the next time he would be able to attend a game. 

We sat together among the crowd of 20,000 strangers, but it felt like watching the game at home: We would give each other a fist-bump and let out a scream after big dunks from Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. We were breathless after witnessing Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic make tough shots. I could also count on seeing my dad raise a clenched fist which is his go-to celebration for big plays. 

Walking back to our car after the Nuggets’ biggest victory in franchise history, I reflected back on the question from earlier in the day. 

“What does it mean to be sharing this experience with your dad?” 

My dad and I are very different people, but we have always shared a bond over sports. I always believed that it was silly we could never have more serious conversations about other subjects in life. Yet, as I have gotten older, I appreciate that the two of us can sit down together, throw on any game, and have a good time. 

The opportunity for us to watch the Nuggets in person under the brightest lights was something we will never forget. Just as my dad wanted to stay in his seat all game long to take in the moment, I will live in the moment. I won’t worry about the future because all we have guaranteed is right now. We understood the Finals are a fleeting stage for the Nuggets. They won’t always be competing to be the best, just like we won’t always be there to cheer them on. Our goal that day was to capture as much of the experience as we could and we successfully accomplished that.

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  • Nicely done !!

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