Knowing that Denver Stiffs would be coming over to SB Nation, lately I've been giving some thought to how I'd introduce myself to an entirely new group of Nuggets fans (and perhaps re-introduce myself to the readers from the original Denver Stiffs).
I've decided that the best way to start would be to share with everyone here why and how I became a Nuggets fan. Sure, I'm a fourth-generation Coloradoan and have been going to Nuggets games since I was in the womb (literally), but there has to be more to it than that, right?
Having recently read Malcom Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success it dawned on me why I'm a Nuggets fan: pure chance. In Outliers, Gladwell's thesis is that the majority of the world's most successful people became that way due to the circumstances they were born into: location, who their parents were/are and the year they were born. For example, as Gladwell points out Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Apple founder Steve Jobs and Sun Microsystems founder Bill Joy were all born between 1954 and 1955 to families who encouraged them to hone their computer skills at an early age and in geographic regions that happened to have access to primitive computers.
Like those technology pioneers, I became a die hard Nuggets fan as a result of geography, family and a particular birth year. I was born in Denver to a family of Nuggets fans who happened to have tickets and encouraged me to watch and play the game of basketball. But perhaps most importantly, I was born in 1975. Meaning that during my "formative years" from say, six years old onward - i.e. the years I start consciously remembering things - the Nuggets were good. Damn good (by Nuggets standards, of course). From 1981 until 1990, the Doug Moe coached Denver Nuggets made the playoffs nine consecutive times, won five playoff series, had five seasons with 45-plus wins, won over 50 games twice and brought home two division titles.
Moe's Nuggets weren't just good, but very fun to watch. Beginning with Moe taking over the coaching reigns in December of 1980 through the entire 1984-85 season, the Nuggets scored less than 100 points just nine times. In fact, they didn't have a single sub-100 point game throughout the entire 1981-82 season. After routinely watching the best athletes in the world score 140, 130 and, worst case, 120 points, I was hooked for life.
Moe's nine year stretch also featured several of the most exhilirating Nuggets games ever played. Within a two-week span in 1982, the Nuggets defeated the Suns in overtime (135-133 on March 17th), again in double overtime (140-134 on the 27th) and defeated the Supersonics in another overtime affair (145-142 on the 30th). On December 13, 1983, the Nuggets lost 186-184 in triple overtime to the Detroit Pistons at McNichols Arena in what became the highest scoring game in NBA history. On May 14th, 1985 the Nuggets may have had their signature playoff victory of the 1980's by soundly defeating the eventual NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers in L.A. 136-114. And on May 8, 1986, the Nuggets were eliminated from the playoffs in six games after a 126-122 double overtime loss at McNichols to the eventual Western Conference Champion Houston Rockets. Even this recent spate of success we've experienced during the Carmelo Anthony Era doesn't compare to the consistency that we witnessed in the 80's.
Attending as many games as I could in person - often wearing my Alex English caricature T-shirt (pictured to the left) - while catching the rest on TV or the radio (believe it or not, only some Nuggets games were available on TV in the early 80's), I grew up rooting for a team of character, not characters. Players like Alex English, Dan Issel, Lafayette "Fat" Lever, Calvin Natt, Wayne Cooper, Kiki Vandeweghe, Theodore Roosevelt "T.R." Dunn, Mike Evans (and later Michael Adams, Jay Vincent and Walter Davis) and even Stiffs like Danny Schayes, Bill Hanzlik, Todd Lichti and Blair Rasmussen epitomized what it meant to be professional basketball players. They were gracious on the floor and off, played as a team, rarely dunked for showmanship and the most obnoxious thing about these guys were the rainbow colored uniforms that they wore.
Had I been born a decade later, I wonder if I'd have been as big a Nuggets fan as I am now. My "formative years" would have consisted of the abrupt and unnecessary teardown of Moe's team - including the firing of Moe himself - the dreadful Peter Bynoe/Bertram Lee Era which brought us Bernie Bickerstaff, Paul Westhead and the laughingstock 1990-91 Nuggets and years of futility. At nine years old I'd have finally seen a winning season and one of the greatest playoff upsets ever, only to watch the Nuggets implode on themselves and lose, lose, lose for eight consecutive seasons. And all of this took place when the shiny new Colorado Rockies joined Major League Baseball in 1993 and the Colorado Avalanche stormed into town in 1995 and won the Stanley Cup Trophy in 1996. In fact, the Nuggets remain the smallest NBA market to share the sports recreation dollar with three other professional teams. In other words, had I been born in 1985 perhaps I'd be writing a Rockies or an Avalanche blog today. FireDinger.com anyone?
For better or worse, you can't choose when and where you're born, and to whom you're born to. Fortunately (or unfortunately pending on your perspective) for me, I was born just in time to appreciate the golden age of Nuggets basketball and I've rooted passionately for this often frustrating franchise ever since.
Oh, who am I kidding? I'd have been better off being born in Seattle in 1955...