The Beatles are probably the most famous band in the history of rock and roll. Their discography features some of the most iconic and influential songs and records in history and at the height of their fame, they were among the most recognizable people on the planet. Yet, before their sudden meteoric rise to fame, they were a struggling but talented band playing 14-hour long sets at dingy clubs in Hamburg, Germany.
After countless hours in clubs hundreds of miles away from their home in the U.K., The Beatles graduated to The Cavern Club in Liverpoor where their first show earned them just 5 pounds. The Cavern was described by Paul McCartney as "sweaty, damp, dark, loud, and exciting." It was there that the band's popularity began to grow. After two years and 292 shows, the band had become an international phenomenon and the rest is history.
This Nuggets team probably won't become the NBA's version of The Beatles but this season will be the Nuggets' version of those weekend nights in Hamburg. With no nationally televised games and even less national media coverage, the Nuggets fans that tune in and cheer for this team will be the loyal few who, in 5 years, will earn the right to say that they were there from the start. Most of the team's games at Pepsi Center will be in front of a half empty crowd and every flicker of optimism about a team on the rise will be met with a shadow of pessimism from a fanbase that recently finished a 10-year stretch of
mediocrity 1st round playoff exits. (editor's note: apparently the term "mediocrity" has riled some feathers.)
While the Nuggets won't win a championship this season (and probably won't win one next season, either), this year truly is a special one for the franchise. The team has put together a special group of players and coaches that are dedicated to the city, dead set on building a contender, and appear to be in it for the long haul.
Those of us that have been paying close attention to the team feel similar to those club goers in Hamburg 55 years ago that were the first to hear the moppy headed 20 year olds that went on to become the Beatles. When and if this team makes a leap into the spotlight, there will be a small contingent of Nuggets fans that will say, "I remember watching those guys back in 2015 before they were famous!"
Golden State has been home to one of the league's best fan bases for 20 years, despite the fact that the team went 18 years with only a single playoff appearance from the late 1990's until 2013. Their fans stuck with them through some pretty hard times and as recently as five seasons ago, it didn't appear that the team was headed in the right direction.
In 2010, an investment team led by Joe Lacob, purchased the Warriors for what was at the time a record $450 million. In 2009, with the 7th overall pick in the NBA draft, the Warriors selected the future cornerstone of their franchise, Stephen Curry. The following season, the team hired Mark Jackson as head coach and he immediately installed a new, more defensive identity for the team. That season the team also drafted Klay Thompson, the 2nd member of what has become the splash brothers. In just two years, the team had laid the foundation for a championship run. Only nobody in the league realized it yet.
The loyal Warriors fans were all there. Packed to 96% capacity, Oracle Arena became the team's Cavern Club, developing the foundation for what would eventually become the most dominant basketball team the league would see in a decade. Fast forward a few years, a few key acquisitions, trades, and one big coaching change, and the team is the defending champions and one of the most iconic teams in the history of basketball.
There are plenty of parallels between the 2011 Warriors and the 2015 Nuggets. For one, both teams drafted point guards 7th overall in their respective drafts. Both teams had fresh faces in the front office, Bob Myers in Golden State, and the still young Tim Connelly in Denver. Both teams made coaching changes and found a renewed focus on defense.
Both teams made ownership changes as well. The transfer of ownership from Stan Kroenke to his wife Ann Walton Kroenke is largely a symbolic transfer but the real transfer has taken place over the last half decade. Josh Kroenke is largely in control of the team now and he has the opportunity to follow in Joe Lacob's footsteps.
As a Nuggets fan, it's difficult to not feel more optimistic than ever about the future of the franchise. It truly feels like we are watching the first chapter in a long anthology about the rise of a championship contending team. Players will come and go between now and when the team is ready for the big time, but the seed has been sown for this team to develop into something special.
The disillusionment of the nearly 10 straight seasons of first round exits and the 2 miserable seasons of irrelevancy are gone and in the past. The reward of the team's promising future is still a few years away.
The present begins right now, and it is a great time for fans to start loving the Nuggets again.