Although I haven't been as "fortunate" as many to have been a Nuggets fan for decades (I started following the team when Carmelo was drafted in 2003, right as I entered college), there's a few games that stand out in my mind as the ones I'll remember the most.
It bums me out that I was never able to bear witness to many Nuggets games of yore. I wasn't even born when David "Skywalker" Thompson (so named because of his reported 48 inch vertical) was flying above the rim in the old McNichols Sports Arena. I missed out on witnessing Robert Pack dunking on fools throughout the early 90s, or watching Dikembe Mutombo finger-wag opponent shots into oblivion. Even in their bad years (through most of the late 80s and 90s), the Nuggets have been able to generally provide an exciting product due to the longstanding team philosophy - great athletes with leaping ability to run opponents down in the thin Denver air.
However, we've recently been spoiled by the most successful period in franchise history since 2003-4, with nine consecutive playoff appearances. As a franchise, the Nuggets have never been more exciting or more competitive, and it's from this era that a few games that stand out most in my mind.
After drubbing the New Orleans Hornets by 58 points to match the largest margin of victory in playoff history, the Nuggets returned home for a game 5 at the Pepsi Center and an opportunity to advance beyond the first round for the first time since 1994.
And I had tickets - to the first playoff game of any sport that I had ever been to. I was beyond excited. Finally, finally, the Nuggets had managed to cobble together a season good enough to avoid playing the Los Angeles Lakers or the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. Not only that, but they were on the cusp of securing a series victory against the crumbling Hornets. My seats were on the midlevel of the Pepsi Center around section 252, with an excellent view of both sides of the court. My then-girlfriend came with me, and although not as much a basketball fan as I was, she could definitely sense the excitement in the Can. You could feel that fans knew that this series win was theirs, after fifteen long years. White "terrible towels" were waved throughout the Pepsi Center as chants of "Let's Go Nug-gets" echoed from one side of the arena to the other.
The game itself was almost a foregone conclusion after the epic beatdown the Nuggets laid on the Hornets in New Orleans, but I still remember J.R. Smith hitting 5-of-8 from beyond the arc, Kenyon enforcing order in the paint with 3 blocks and watching Dahntay Jones frustrate Chris Paul up and down the court. It's hard to describe the energy coursing through the stands as the team entered the fourth quarter with a fourteen point lead. Everyone knew that the Nuggets were going to advance, and I remember after the buzzer hearing the same "Let's Go Nug-gets" chants continuing all the way out the door.
The rest of that memorable playoff run, as they say, is history. The Nuggets went on to beat a tough Dallas Mavericks squad (spurred on by comments from Mark Cuban) and eventually lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals in 6 games, their farthest playoff push in franchise history. I like to think that I was a part of that run and bore witness to the first series win after 15 long, futile seasons. Although the Nuggets haven't been back to the Western Conference Finals since, I'll always remember that amazing run beginning with the series clincher that I witnessed over the Hornets.
A more recent game that's probably fresh in the minds of many fans, this one stands out to me as I was once again in attendance for a moment that'll be forever remembered in Nuggets' history:
On a dreary January night, fresh off the post-Christmas and New Years hangover, I went to the Pepsi Center with my father and brother to watch the Nuggets take on the lowly Kings and recently drafted Jimmer Fredette. The then 5-2 Nuggets had started the lockout-shortened season off very well, and looked to continue their dominance at home at the Pepsi Center. Nobody expected what happened near the end of the game, however, after George Karl finally relented under the pressure of Nuggets fans who wanted to see the man nicknamed "Bounce" (and soon to be crowned "The Manimal").
With the Nuggets wiping the floor with the Kings in the fourth quarter (leading by as many as 31 points), Ty Lawson made a play on an errant pass to Isaiah Thomas at midcourt. Somehow, Ty forced the ball out of Isaiah Thomas's hands and into Kenneth Faried's, who immediately threw the ball forward to a streaking Rudy Fernandez. Rudy somehow saw Kenneth Faried running behind him, lofted the ball behind and over his head without looking to a sky-high Faried. Faried slammed it home, the Pepsi Center went crazy, and Faried's first points as a Denver Nugget became a part of Nuggets lore.
Faried then went on to have a spectacular season and became a rookie sensation. He's on track for an even better 2012-2013 season. I couldn't have asked for a better game to witness Kenneth Faried's first points as a Nuggets player.
These are just two of my favorite games, amongst many others - Ty Lawson's "10 threes in a row" game, any of Carmelo's gamewinners, and countless others over the years. What games stand out to you, Stiffs?