When the 42-win, eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets were down 0-2 to the heavily favored 63-win, first-seeded Seattle Supersonics in the first round of the NBA Playoffs in 1994 it was assumed by all who love and follow the NBA - including yours truly - that the Nuggets would be yet another footnote in NBA post-season history. Just another forgettable team in a countless line of eight seeds to perish at the hands of a one seed, for prior to 1994 no eight seed in NBA history had ever defeated a one seed.
And then the Nuggets shocked the sports world by winning Games 3 and 4 of that series at Denver's old McNichols Arena and really shocked the sports world by upsetting the Sonics in Game 5 at Seattle. Suddenly, on a Saturday afternoon in May of 1994, the once assumed belief that no eight seed could ever defeat a one seed was shattered. Since that day, an eight seed has defeated a one seed in the NBA Playoffs four more times. But one wonders if those four additional teams could have pulled it off without having those spirited Nuggets setting the precedence that it could be done in 1994.
On Father's Day of 2016, another assumed belief was shattered as the Cleveland Cavaliers - led by their super-duper star LeBron James - did something that no team in NBA history had ever done prior: come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals to win a championship. Prior to the 2016 Cavaliers tying the series at three games apiece, only two teams in NBA history (the last being the 1966 Los Angeles Lakers) had even tied a series at three games apiece. Another "can't be done" in the NBA has been done.
Others, inspired by the 2015-16 Cavaliers, will follow.
Another "can't be done" happened when James won his third NBA Championship on Sunday night: the "cursed" city of Cleveland won its first professional championship since the 1964 Cleveland Browns won the NFL Championship. The Cavaliers championship is akin to when the Boston Red Sox erased 86 years without a World Series Championship by defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004 (and have won two additional World Series since). Along the way in 2004, the Red Sox became the first team in Major League Baseball history to erase a 3-0 championship series deficit to win a series. And even the oft-"cursed" Chicago Cubs, who haven't won a World Series since 1908, could win it all this year as they currently lead all National League teams in wins.
When the 2008 Boston Celtics defeated the Lakers in Game 6, Celtics star Kevin Garnett famously exclaimed: "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!!!" (Garnett was unleashing 13 seasons of frustration from having never been to an NBA Finals all in one emotional outburst.) It is a trite, simplistic statement but in sports is oh-so-true. Some day, we will witness a 16-seed in the NCAA Tournament defeat a one-seed. Some day, we will witness an NBA team down 0-3 in a playoff series come back to win 4-3.
And while witnessing the Cavaliers unbelievable history-reversing championship win on Sunday, for the first time in a long time I even imagined that some day even our oft-cursed, long-suffering Denver Nuggets could win it all.
Ever since this website was created in 2008 I've written often that I cannot imagine our beloved Nuggets ever competing (never mind, winning) for an NBA Championship in my lifetime. In my defense, prior to the Golden State Warriors' 2015 NBA Championship 35 years of NBA Finals win history was dominated by just nine franchises - and really just seven if you remove the lone titles won by the Philadelphia 76ers (1983) and Dallas Mavericks (2011). Writing this piece in 2016, we now have 11 champions in 37 years. And with the Cavaliers winning it all on Sunday, they join the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons as the only three small-ish market teams among those 11 to claim a championship since 1980. Parity and progress, sort of, by NBA standards.
So if the Cavaliers can reverse a 3-1 deficit to win an NBA Championship. And if by doing so the Cavaliers can reverse 52 years of tortured history for professional sports in Cleveland ... why couldn't the same thing happen in Denver with our Nuggets?
JOIN US THURSDAY FOR STIFFS NIGHT OUT:
2016 NBA DRAFT
Join your fellow Stiffs as we find out what the Nuggets will do with their THREE first round selections during the 2016 NBA Draft. We will gather at our home bar Jake's Sports & Spirits (3800 Walnut Street) around 5:00pm and Jake's will extend happy hour drink prices for us all draft long. And we'll play Denver Nuggets draft trivia for prizes, including individual game tickets during the 2016-17 season. We hope to see you there!