Bill Simmons can be a Boston sports loving condescending jackass sometimes. Wait, no, all the time. In a two part article about this year's playoffs, Simmons attempts to engender sympathy for Nuggets fans while simultaneously dismissing the team's entire history. It's very hard to accomplish that sort of thing, but there he was in black and while. Seriously. Look below.
Q: Why don't Nuggets fans ever get credit for being tortured?
Great question! They've only played in one Finals — in 1976, in the ABA, falling to Doctor J and the Nets in six game. Their franchise's greatest moment was beating Seattle in Round 1 of the 1994 playoffs. (Not a joke.) In 46 seasons, they've played in just six conference finals and lost five of them. They've lost in the first round nine of the past 10 years. Their four greatest players in franchise history were Carmelo Anthony (quit on them to play in New York), David Thompson (derailed by cocaine), Dan Issel (who made only one All-Star Game after Denver moved to the NBA) and Alex English (whose career highlight was playing an exhibition game with the '86 Celtics for a scene in Amazing Grace and Chuck). They've never drafted higher than third or signed a marquee free agent. During their best possible chance to win an NBA title (the late '70s, when they had Thompson and Issel and nearly made the 1977 Finals), they seized the moment by picking Tom Lagarde ninth in '77 (the previous two picks: Bernard King and Jack Sikma), then eventually dealing the wildly underrated Bobby Jones for the wildly overrated George McGinnis.
I could go on and on. Just know that last night's comeback/collapse/refpocalypse (four blown calls in the final three-plus minutes, including two killers against Denver in the final 12 seconds) felt perfectly Denver-y. The poor Denver fans need a break. You know, other than the statewide legalization of marijuana.
First off, he completely dismisses what is a great moment for THE NBA the 1994 Western Conference quarterfinals was. Against the No. 1 Seed (and very, very, very heavily favored) Seattle Supersonics, the Nuggets became the first team in NBA history to defeat the top seeded team in the conference as a No. 8 Seed. For those that weren't around then, or are too young to remember it, Seattle was a dominant team with Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. The Nuggets were left for dead after losing the first two games ... then the Nuggets came roaring back to win the next three (quarterfinals were best-of five back then) and quite literally stun the basketball world. (Let us not forget in the NEXT round the Nuggets were down 3-0 to the Utah Jazz and came roaring back to force a 7th game).
Then Simmons manages to insult three Basketball Hall of Fame players in Dan Issel, David Thompson and Alex English. The line about English particularly rankles because, I don't know, he made eight straight All-Star games and was the leading scorer of the 1980's. I know scoring over 2,000 points in eight consecutive seasons is nothing according to Simmons, but if he removed the Celtics-green colored glasses he'd probably appreciate the accomplishment a bit more.
Personal gripes with condescending national reporters aside, I think that the citizenry and sports media in Denver do an awful job of selling our own city. Too often we feel put-upon so we settle for the lazy national narrative that Denver is a fly-over city. That NBA players couldn't and wouldn't choose to come to Denver because we aren't a destination. This lazy and damaging narrative will only go on if we allow it to continue.
The Nuggets were bounced in the first round, again, and all the talk you hear (even from local reporters) is how star players won't come here. That it's a pipe dream and we need to just accept that it will never happen. It's about time that we change that. And no, it doesn't take some NFL-esque utopia either ... I believe it has been firmly established that the NFL exists entirely as its own entity and comparisons to other sports are highly futile.
It's up to us, and the people who speak for the city of Denver to defy the stereotype and, you know, actually sell the city, rather than just meekly agreeing to a life with no star players. All of us who live in Denver know its many virtues. We do a horrible job telling people that. While Denver may not have the "urban" advantages that other larger cities do, let us not forget that our advantages are plenty as well. Such as:
- Normally mild weather (this year not withstanding)
- Amazing outdoor activities
- Great people (every city has idiots)
- The Nuggets are always in the playoffs and you (insert star player) will be the one to put us over the top
- Rabid sports fans
- Players who WANT to play in Denver, thrive in Denver (English, Issel, Antonio McDyess ... for a time)
One of the reasons I like Danilo Gallinari so much is that he said he wants to finish his career in Denver. Do people understand how cool it is that one person wants to spend a good portion of his life and WORK in the city where you live? Maybe that's just me.
I hate the constant woe is me "put upon" theatrics that we go through every single year. Star player won't come here? That just means we need to do a better job of selling out city! No more saying "Aw Shucks" and then kicking the dirt like some latchkey kid from the 1950's. The only way we change the perception of Denver is if we change it ourselves. Maybe, once Chauncey Billups retires he can again become an ambassador for the city like he once was. All I know is it's time to make our own path brighter. Once the Nuggets re-sign Masai Ujiri we can build upon that 57 win year. What will that entail? Who knows?
It will happen though, IN DENVER. We just need to get the word out.
What are your favorite things about Denver?
Twitter: @jmorton78 https://twitter.com/#!/jmorton78