I believe I'm on fairly stable ground in asserting that in no other major professional sport in North America are you called upon to justify your fandom more than being a fan of an NBA team. The reactions you get when you tell people you (like me) cover the Denver Nuggets is a curious mixture of pity and outright disdain. It's very strange to me that you have to constantly be asked to justify yourself.
Why is that? Well, there's always the angry people who don't understand why the NBA isn't the NFL. These are primarily Football-only fans who don't even care for basketball but like to subject you to their opinion anyway. There's the Eeyore-esque "what's the point" people who question why you follow a sport where your team has no chance to win the championship. Then ... unfortunately ... there's outright racists. We won't discuss those people other than to say their opinions don't matter anyway and thankfully those people are few and fortunately very far between.
As for the NFL vs the NBA comment. Why do people feel the need to compare the sports? First and foremost, I like following the NBA because I just like basketball played at an extremely high level. Full stop. I will write an article dedicated to how is basically impossible to run the NBA like the NFL, but I will say I don't understand how liking the NFL keeps some people from enjoying the NBA. I happen to like both (although I much prefer the NBA) and I can find things to like about both leagues. Maybe that's just me, and in this society you have to go all in on one thing or another but I'd rather not, thank you. There's absolutely nothing wrong with liking both and I'm sure many people agree with this stance.
The "whats the point" people tend to harp on the NBA's lack of competitiveness (only 9 different teams have won the NBA title in the last 30 odd years). While I could scream from a mountain top that the perception of lack of competitive ability has far more to do with the lack of difference making players available to the NBA, and blame the mothers of the world for not producing more athletic freaks for us basketball junkies, I will just accept it for what it is. I enjoy the game of basketball, and the NBA even more. Why does the prerequisite for sports enjoyment have to be constantly saddled with the requirement of getting "tha ringzz"? When the pursuit for titles obscures your enjoyment for the sport you might as well give up watching sports entirely or just stick with the NFL.
My love of NBA basketball started at a very young age and only grew over time. Sure, the Nuggets sucked through a vast portion of my teenage years but it didn't stop me from enjoying the game. I never lost hope even though those Nuggets teams gave me plenty reason to. I had the pleasure of seeing such players as Alex English, Lafayette "Fat" Lever, Dikembe Mutombo, LaPhonso Ellis, Antonio McDyess and even Nick Van Exel. They all had something to offer through great times and horrible times. I just love the game. Is that wrong? Nah.
We get so caught up in the final result that the chase to get there becomes meaningless. There are many who believe the Nuggets will never win a title in their lifetimes (including my colleague Andrew Feinstein). I firmly believe they will, but if they don't, the journey still fascinates me. I want those who actually play on the Nuggets team to expect a title. Quite frankly those are the expectations that matter. Do THEY want a title? If they do then we are in for one hell of a ride. When NBA games are competitive, particularly in the playoffs, there is absolutely NOTHING like them. Game 6 and Game 7 of the NBA Finals last season (Between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs) were some of the most exciting basketball games I've ever seen.
I'm not sure about much of what the Nuggets did this offseason. If I were to be honest, and if I was talking to Josh Kroenke right now I'd say the same thing. There's some head scratching things that have happened this summer that has put things into a weird state. Yet, as we approach training camp October 1st I'm filled with the same excitement that I've experienced every single Nuggets season. This is my fourth as someone who covers the team. While the Nuggets may not win 57 games this season, I will still be happy as a clam when they begin this brand new quest with a brand new coach in Brian Shaw.
To those that say there's no point in following the Nuggets ... what are ya? Afraid of a challenge?
Can't wait for the season to start.