For many die-hard fans of sports teams, memorabilia can tell a story. A specific item can represent a special memory in a fandom that cements a passion for that team forever, as Zach Mikash recounts in his article about the time he received signatures during training camp from the Denver Nuggets team in 1994. Or, it can remind you of an exciting time in your childhood when you coveted a piece of merchandise and used a combination of persuasion with your parents and some of your own hard-earned money to receive the item. Memorabilia can also come in the form of a heartfelt gift given to you by a friend or family member, causing it to have a deeper meaning than what's on the surface from that point forward.
Fortunately, I have items that do all of this and more. Here are the stories of what some of my most prized Denver Nuggets possessions represent to me.
Carmelo Anthony signed ball
This ball represents one of the first major purchases I made in my life, not necessarily in terms of money but in terms of value. I was in sixth grade and my family and I were at an auction being held by and for my school. I remember pacing the hallways and restlessly looking inside the classrooms at various items, none of them immediately catching my eye. Finally, my attention was drawn to an item that was displayed on a table in the art room. There it was, a signed Carmelo Anthony ball.
I must have only been a Nuggets fan for a year or two at the time, as this was in 2004 or 2005 and I'm pretty sure I started watching the Nuggets when Anthony was drafted in 2003. As soon as I saw this item, I wanted it right away. I knew it had to be a lot though, and when I saw the price was currently at $65 I think I probably lost a little hope. Now keep in mind, I was only 11 or 12, so $65 seemed like a lot and I definitely did not have that much money saved up from doing random chores throughout the house. However, my parents must have been able to see how much I wanted it and since it was for a good cause, they agreed to pay for half. Much to my surprise, I was able to walk away with the ball after having only spent around $30 of my own money.
It was my first signed item of any kind and the fact that it was signed by Anthony, the player that got me interested in professional basketball, made it incredibly special. Even though he broke my heart about six years later when he left the Nuggets for the bright lights of New York City, I'll never forget what he did for this franchise and how happy it made me to have a ball signed by him that I could showcase in my room.
As you can tell from the photo, either time has made its mark on this possession or I have not done the best job at taking care of it, as the signature is faded and smeared in some places. It's been sitting on a shelf to my headboard all these years and although I don't look at it much anymore, every time I do I can go back pretty easily to the way it felt taking it home and just staring at it for maybe hours later (most of that time was probably spent wondering how the signature could read Carmelo Anthony...I just didn't see it, and still don't). This is perhaps why even though I was disappointed in Melo's decision to leave Denver, I could never completely disregard his years with the Nuggets. He is the reason I'm a fan, after all.
Ty Lawson signed hat
Sometimes in order to win signed merchandise from a professional athlete, all you have to do is answer a question on social media really, really fast. This was the case with this signed Ty Lawson hat. Lawson was doing a giveaway on Twitter to help promote his teammate and friend Corey Brewer's movie (Brewer had a small part in Movie 43 along with a few other NBA players). I answered one of the questions before anybody else, and about a week later I received this signed hat in the mail along with two tickets to the movie. It's always cool when players do stuff like this on Twitter and I used to try pretty hard in order to win. This was in 2013, and a few months later this hat actually got the attention of Brewer himself (story below). To me, this hat represents the lengths I've taken in order to win signed merchandise from a player on my favorite team. Crazed fans all around the world can probably relate.
Corey Brewer signed practice jersey and photo
These items represent a fun night out with friends as well as my first interaction with a Denver Nuggets player. The Nuggets hosted a Tweet up with Brewer in January 2013, a special opportunity for fans to buy tickets to a game and then join Brewer for a Q&A and meet-up afterward. When I learned about this, the first thing I did was pick up the phone and ask my friend if she would be interested in attending this event with my sister and I. When she said yes, I bought tickets immediately.
After the Nuggets beat the Sacramento Kings pretty handily, we were on our way to club level in order to hang out with Brewer. It was a pretty intimate event, maybe only 20 or 30 people there. The first half of the Tweet up consisted of him answering questions asked through Twitter or from fans that were present and the second half was spent with Kyle Speller, the Nuggets PA announcer, giving us all Corey Brewer themed trivia questions in order to win signed items.
I rocked the trivia I must say, shouting out a couple of questions before anybody else and winning a signed Corey Brewer jersey and photo. Actually, because I'm pretty soft-spoken, I fed the answers to my friend and she shouted them out for me, which created some funny moments that we still laugh about to this day.
I considered this my first time actually meeting a Nuggets player, even though I didn't officially meet him. I did get to shake his hand as he left, however, which was good enough for me. A cool tidbit is that I was wearing the Movie 43 hat that I had gotten earlier that season, and Brewer actually saw this and pointed it out in recognition while giving one of his famous smiles. Another cool tidbit is that I officially met him a few months later while serving at Casa Bonita. Brewer came in and sat in my section a day after winning a game for the Nuggets in an amazing comeback against the Philadelphia 76ers to extend their winning streak to 14. I got the chance to tell him how big of a fan I was, which has long been one of my dreams. After tweeting about this moment that night he even followed me on Twitter, officially making him one of my favorite Nuggets of all time. He's pretty much a close, personal friend at this point (no exaggeration at all in this statement...)
Framed Chris Andersen signed picture
The Birdman has always been one of my favorite Nuggets in the time that I've been watching the team, so when my sister presented me with a signed Chris Andersen photo for Christmas one year, I was pretty psyched. There's not much to say about this item other than that to me, the photo makes me think of my sister and the effort she made in order to get me the perfect Christmas present. I'm not sure how much it cost, but a gift like this from your sister is priceless.
2013-2014 Denver Nuggets signed basketball
This is probably the coolest item I have but sadly, I can't say that it's mine. One of my mom's coworkers was able to get a signed basketball from the entire 2013-2014 Denver Nuggets team somehow, and since he isn't a big Nuggets fan and he knew my mom was, he graciously gave it to her. I'll never forget her calling me from work, the excitement palpable in her voice, and telling me the good news. While she's made it clear that the ball is hers, I still consider it partially mine. Because if it wasn't for me, my mom wouldn't even be a fan of the local professional basketball club. That's why this item represents this common interest between her and I.
When I started watching the Nuggets, I was the only one in my family that did so. Nobody else in my household followed basketball at all, so it was an interest all my own. Then the 2008-2009 season happened. When the Nuggets steamrolled their way to the Western Conference finals before losing a heartbreaking series against the Los Angeles Lakers, the team gained a new fan (I've given her some grief for joining the fandom only after we experienced some postseason success for the first time since I was one. Then again, I can only remember watching the Nuggets after we drafted Melo, so who am I to talk?) Now, it's usually my mom and I sitting together watching the games on television and believe it or not, she screams louder than I do at some of the pivotal moments.
I'll officially own this ball one day and when that time comes, it will hold a deeper meaning than any other item I possess. For now, I'm fine relinquishing ownership.
Ty Lawson signed jacket
This autograph, I was actually able to receive in person. I was attending an open scrimmage at the Pepsi Center for the Nuggets before the beginning of the lockout season in 2011. At one point during the scrimmage, Lawson was signing autographs for the fans and I was able to sneak into the crowd and hand him my jacket, which he then signed. Like the Melo signed ball, this signature has smeared quite a bit. But to me, this jacket represents the thrill of approaching one of your favorite athletes and humbly requesting an autograph. For all that's been said about Lawson recently, he did always seem gracious to fans and I think that did not go unnoticed by many in Denver.
All of this memorabilia is a way for others to actually see the passion you have for your team or for the sport in general, as they look at that signed jersey displayed on your wall or the signed baseball card on your desk. Ask any sports fan that owns any memorabilia at all and they will tell you that the lure is hard to explain. It's not just about the price value, as most of us would never sell our most valuable sports possessions. It's not just about showcasing them to family and friends, either. It's about what it all represents. For me, my collection represents an accumulation of memories and moments that tell a story of a crazed and lifelong fan, thereby contributing to the story of who I am. They're not just items that were signed by famous athletes; they're signatures of my identity.