When JR Smith tweeted this following the Nuggets' game 5 win, many outside of Denver rolled their eyes with a snarky "What rivalry?" response. And to anyone outside of the Nuggets fanbase, it would probably appear that way. The Lakers have bounced the Nuggs from the playoffs multiple times, including twice in the Western Conference Finals ('09 and '85). However, with the Nuggets forcing a game 7 and sticking it to Stern, the four letter network and the rest of the Laker fanboys across the nation, is it time for the rest of basketball world to acknowledge our hate to the Lake show?
Let's get this straight. The Lakers have 15 NBA championships (16 if you count the 2002 Buffalo Wild Wings series against the Kings). The Nuggets have none. Not even a ABA championship. The Lakers are the royalty of the league. They have an identity every year as the storied franchise who will try to live up to their history. The Nuggets change identities faster than Craig Sager changes outfits. The Nuggets have been the laughingstocks, the Thuggets and now the symbolic George Karl middle finger to the NBA's star driven model. We Nuggets fans embrace our historic ineptitude. And perhaps for that reason, we hate the Lakers. We hate their bandwagon fans. We hate the "Ringzz!" quotes interjected into sentences. We hate the fact that our team has been pushed out of the playoffs by the Lakers on more than one occasion. As one sided as this rivalry might be, to us at Nuggets Nation, the Lakers are Goliath and the Nuggets are still waiting for their David moment.
So regardless of how game 7 turns out, I applaude our young team for staging a comeback. They've given us reason to celebrate. They've given themselves a chance to knock off a team that few but Sir Charles gave us a chance to beat. If they do so, I doubt they'll receive the recognition they deserve. Lakers fans will still condescendingly view the Nuggets as a team that got lucky (See excuses of MWP, Mike Brown, Kobe getting sick). The pundits will give us no chance against the Thunder. I don't see one series changing the entire relationship between two teams, but then again, maybe it's better that way. As Nuggets fans, we are inherent stiffs. So who cares if basketball continues to overlook the Nuggets? Maybe our rivalry with the Lakers should be just that: OUR rivalry. Embrace the passion. Embrace the hate. The playoffs are here.