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Bret Bearup was larger than life

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Some words on the man they call Bear, from Denver Stiffs founder Andrew Feinstein

If you appreciate this website’s unrivaled access to the Denver Nuggets organization, you should point your gratitude and thanks to one man: Bret Bearup. Bret was a good friend and colleague of mine and the others who have ably stewarded this site since its inception.

Bret tragically passed away this week at the all-too-young age of 56.

When I started this website over 10 years ago (under a different moniker at the time) it caused quite an uproar among the Nuggets organization, who prior to this site’s launch had the good fortune of dealing with tepid coverage from the local sports media - with obvious tough love exceptions like Mark Kiszla, Dave Krieger, Woody Paige, Sandy Clough, Les Shapiro and a few others.

Frustrated not only with the Nuggets’ performance on the court and in the community, but with the local sports media’s coverage of the team in general, this website came out of the gates with a combative and aggressive tone that was both enthusiastically welcomed and simultaneously derided by many fans and other sports outlets alike. But rather than fight back or attempt to diminish this site’s efforts as “the voice of the Nuggets fan”, team adviser Bret Bearup reached out to me cordially with a personal email. In that initial email Bret commended my writing and passion for the team and offered to have dinner and drinks, which I soon after accepted.

That was 2008 and we have been friends ever since.

Rather than see Denver Stiffs as a potential enemy of the Nuggets, Bret saw me/us as an ally. I was invited to hang out both pre- and post-game with Bret and other Nuggets executives, coaches and players. And thanks to Bret many of the relationships forged in those early days with the guys actually running, coaching and playing for the team have turned into lifelong friendships that I hold dear to this day, even though I no longer write for this website.

As others will tell you, Bret was always good for a candid story or an off-the-record news scoop about the Nuggets, the NCAA or the NBA in general. One thing I always appreciated about Bret is that he didn’t hide from the accusations levied against him about his days as a financial adviser to prominent athletes and coaches; he instead embraced them and questioned why his career as an adviser raised any red flags whatsoever. Moreover, Bret was an invaluable adviser to the Nuggets - watching more than 1,000 basketball games (on all levels) each year and sending artfully and eloquently written scouting reports on players to the Nuggets’ brass at all hours of the night. Believe me because I have seen many of those reports!

One of my favorite Bret Bearup stories surrounded the cantankerous 2007-08 Nuggets team. With a squad already featuring tough customers like Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith, Bret advocated for the Nuggets to trade Linas Kleiza for the talented but high maintenance Ron Artest. When head coach George Karl protested that he couldn’t possibly take on another talented but tough personality, Bret responded with: “What do we have to lose?”

But more importantly, I always appreciated Bret being there for me as a friend. When I moved back to Denver after a 10 year sabbatical in Los Angeles, Bret welcomed me into his friend circle and had my back. Bret was always available for a phone call, meeting or to just hang out and lend whatever advice or wisdom he could offer to me both personally and professionally. Bret was a voracious reader and had a quick wit, and those of us who were lucky enough to be his Facebook friend know just how funny and opinionated he was.

As of this writing, the cause of death is unknown. What we do know is that Bret left behind countless friends, admirers and three amazing children - a daughter (whom I regrettably never met) and two sons whom I’ve had the privilege of seeing grow up into fine young men.

Standing 6’9”, Bret Bearup was truly larger than life and enjoyed all aspects of life to its fullest. Bret will be sorely missed and on behalf of myself and the entire Denver Stiffs community, tonight I’ll be sure to toast a glass of red wine to our dearly departed friend.