So, I'm walking down the sand on Redondo Beach, and stumble across an old lamp half-buried there in the sand. I pick it up, and notice that it's dusty and dull, so I try to polish it a little bit. You're never going to guess what happens next.*
As you may have surmised, I had a brief encounter with a genie. Surprisingly, this genie says, "Hey there, Mike!" (apparently a magic genie would know my name because he's so magic) "You know the drill! What is your wish?"
"Only one?" I say. The genie replies, "Only one."
I say, "I thought it was supposed to be three..."
The genie says, "It could be none here, in just a second."
"One is good," I say.
With only one wish, I have some serious considering to do. After a lot of consideration, I finally make my wish. I say, "Genie, I'd like lasting peace in the Middle East."
Now it's the genie's turn to consider. After several moment's pause, he finally says, "Mike, that region has been deeply embroiled in levels of conflict I cannot fully imagine, and for more years than I've been alive, which is over a thousand. I always thought I could grant any wish, but I'm not sure I have that in me."
Being an understanding wisher, I'm lucky that I'd already been keeping a ‘1A' wish option in my hip pocket. I excitedly say, "Genie, I'd like the Denver Nuggets to win a championship this next season!"
The genie bites his lip and says, "Talk to me about this Middle East idea..."
*portions of this story may not be perfectly factually accurate
Sadly, a Denver Nuggets championship would not be amongst my top two aspirations, though it might have a crack at the top ten, if I thought it through. The idea of such a list was born out of a recent bout of reflection and regret, trying to decide what one thing I might change about my past, if I had the ability to do so. Life Jenga, as it were.
Butterfly effect arguments and fruitless exercises aside, I won't bore you with my own short list, but was also given to reflect on a short list of things I might change about the Denver Nuggets past.
If you've not worked it out, this is a list of Nuggets tragedies, so proceed with caution or cold medicine. Since I couldn't choose only one, I've narrowed it down to a short list. Here's six things I cannot seem to choose between, in reverse historical order, as I'd happily reverse each of them if I had something to rub. A lamp, I mean.
2013: Il ginocchio del Gallo
Or, "the Rooster's knee", if Google Translate is worth a damn. In April of 2013, a Western Conference three-seed lost one of its key cogs with a season-ending ACL injury to Danilo Gallinari. That wound is still fresh enough to be the last time the Nuggets tasted playoff success, after their franchise-best 57 win campaign. I'd rub a lot of lamps to see what might have happened that year if Gallo doesn't go down to that injury. Here's his top 10 plays of the season.
2010: Karl falls ill, breaks Nuggets hearts
For the 2009-2010 season, the Nuggets were coming off of a respectable Western Conference Finals appearance against the Lakers to close out the previous year, and made it to the All-Star break with a shiny 35-18 record, good for second place in the Western Conference. That season's All-Star game was held on Valentine's Day of 2010, and the Nuggets came away heartbroken. Coming out of the break and being a part of All-Star festivities, Coach George Karl was diagnosed with neck and throat cancer. Some of the heart went out of that Nuggets squad, struggling under fill-in coach Adrian Dantley, and Denver stumbled through the second half to a fourth seed finish and first round hook from division foe Utah. If my magic lamp can keep Karl from his illness, I feel good about a team who can finish the season strong, and great about less heartache for Karl, who seems a genuinely good guy from one distant observer's perspective.
Look at Carmelo in the first play of this recap of that season.
1997-1999: The Unwanted
The Nuggets spent the better part of two seasons as the redheaded stepchild of several ownership groups and attempts. Once COMSAT bought the team, only to quickly get buyer's remorse and look to sell, the team spent two years in owner purgatory, with no one at that level looking after the product as they did. The result was the worst two seasons in Nuggets history, with 11 and 14 wins to show for the effort. The magic lamp would simply get the Kroenke group in the door two years earlier here.
1994: The Fonz jumps the shark
LaPhonso Ellis could do this:
Until he couldn't. A knee fracture starting his third season took the springs out of my still-favorite Nugget. After a lengthy rehab and battles with more knee and hernia injuries, Ellis had two more very productive seasons with Denver, but never truly returned to the potential he flashed in those first two years. Ellis did do some very respectable work for Miami, Minnesota, and Atlanta over his 11-season career. But if my wish could save the Fonz a break from his break, he'd not have followed his namesake in predatory fish hopping. Neither was the same after they did it.
1990-1992: Enver Nuggets, brought to you by Paul W.
W as in Westhead. Two years of Paul Ball, 44 wins to show for it. Total. I guess I'd wish for no Westhead instead of no D.
Late 70's: The Skywalker goes to the dark side
The Denver Nuggets first true claim to fame came in the form of David Thompson, the Skywalker himself, and his leaping ability and scoring prowess. Had Thompson not taken the path of substance abuse, he well might have been mentioned in the pantheons of the game's greatest, instead of as a footnote. If I had that wish to give, it's hard not to rant my hometown team the league's greatest star right as they are coming in to being. A short-but sweet look at how elite players are able to influence the game.
What about you, Nuggets Nation? I've run the gamut of the Nuggets NBA history, and left a few other candidates off the list. If you had the opportunity to change one event in team history to the positive, what would it be?