On Wednesday’s Lowe Post podcast, Zach Lowe’s guest and former boss at Grantland, Bill Simmons, was asked what he thought of the Denver Nuggets. Long story short, he’s not buying them.
“I think they are a regular season success story,” Simmons explained. “By the way, I’m gonna get crucified on Denver Stiffs now! Headline: Simmons hates the Nuggets.”
Well, if you insist.
Okay, the headline is a joke. Simmons doesn’t hate the Nuggets and his comments weren’t unfair at all, they were just surprising. Partially because we thought the Nuggets might be the kind of team he’d really enjoy but mostly because...HE KNOWS WHO WE ARE! Since we apparently have Bill’s attention, we figured we’d take a moment to speak directly to the legend himself.
First of all, we love you. Every single one of us started blogging about the Denver Nuggets because of you. Your columns on ESPN’s Page 2 were what first opened our eyes to what a blogger could become. We loved you at Grantland for your articles, podcasts, and for introducing us to great writers like Lowe, Rembert Browne, Bill Barnwell, Shea Serrano and so many others. We’ve even aimed to make our site a sort of “theRinger.com for Denver Nuggets fans,”
drawing inspiration and paying homage swagger jacking some of your ideas like The Rewatcheables, but with a Denver Nuggets angle and your various theme weeks.
So how could you think that we would get upset about such a mild take? Our site name is a self own. Calling someone a “stiff” was Doug Moe’s favorite insult. A stiff was a slow, lumbering, unathletic, oaf. A scrub. Someone who couldn’t play dead in a western. Someone like...Nikola Jokic.
The stiffs bathe in self deprecation. We embrace our team’s modest (read: not great) history. The worst moment in the Detroit Pistons’ franchise history was when Isiah Thomas threw the ball away on an inbound pass that blew his chance at his first NBA championship. The Nuggets made that error twice in one series and that was our peak!
We don’t mind that you don’t believe in the Nuggets because the Nuggets are built to be a nobody-believes-in-us all-timer. Jokic is the team’s “star” and he is the most anti-star in recent NBA history. He was asleep when he was drafted by the Denver Nuggets back in 2014. Even if he had stayed awake to watch, all he would’ve seen when his name was announced was an image of a Taco Bell quesarito.
Paul Millsap was taken with the 47th pick in the draft. Will Barton traveled such an interesting and star-crossed path to the NBA that we made a documentary about him. Michael Malone was unceremoniously fired by the Sacramento Kings and Gary Harris was traded on draft night for Doug McDermott!
The Nuggets have seven 2nd round draft picks on their roster, two players who went undrafted, and just three who were taken in the lottery (Jamal Murray, Trey Lyles, and Michael Porter Jr.). They lead the league in games missed due to injury and have the 3rd youngest roster yet still, somehow, have the best record in the Western Conference. You don’t believe in the Nuggets? Don’t apologize. You shouldn’t believe in them!
I will, however, point out that despite your claim that Denver’s “homecourt advantage sucks,” the Nuggets have the best record at home in the entire NBA.
“What the hell is going on in Denver? Why are there 5,000 fans from the other teams at half of these games? What’s happening? Where are the Nuggets fans? Where are you?“
Here’s the thing: you’re not wrong. I know about your theory that cold-weather cities produce the most passionate NBA fanbases because they’re so miserable throughout the winter that their teams mean more to them than fanbases in warmer climates. You’re spot on with that. But one sneaky fact about Denver is that it isn’t that cold in the winter. That “300 days of sunshine” thing is pretty real. Spring in Denver is beautiful. Summer is perfect. Fall is my personal favorite. But Colorado peaks in the winter. That’s when everyone heads to the mountains to ski, snowboard, drink craft-brewed IPA’s and smoke locally grown, fully legal weed that costs half the price you’d pay in a major city along the coast.
Because of that, tens of thousands of people infiltrate Denver every year from California, Chicago, Dallas, New York, New England and other major American cities and they bring with them their Kobe jerseys and their parents’ checkbook. But it’s getting better. Denver loves a winner and the Nuggets are winning. There have been 13 sellouts already this seas...oh god. This does sound pathetic. Point taken. Let’s move on.
Let me ask a hypothetical “who says no?” The Denver Nuggets get Jaylen Brown. The Celtics get Nikola Jokic. Sound good? That was the deal that caused Boston sports radio hosts, Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti to laugh so hard they almost choked just 3 years ago. Admittedly, Jokic wasn’t a name that rung out back then so it made sense that the idea was absurd. Fast forward a few years and the joke is on them.
He can’t keep this pace once he plays starters minutes— Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares) December 21, 2018
He won’t be as effective once he’s on the scouting report
He can’t play defense
He’s not a top 20 player
He can’t carry a team by scoring
He won’t work in the playoffs
He can’t be MVP https://t.co/LRHyy4iZ6U
This year’s Nuggets team hasn’t exactly been lucky, either, but Jokic is creating a sort of reverse Ewing theory. Everyone else on his team has gotten hurt yet, as starter after starter has gone down, the Nuggets have extended their foothold out west.
And let me just leave this comparison of two players in their age-23 season:
Okay, fine. I mostly did that one just to bug you.
But there is something about this Denver Nuggets team that I think you will grow to love sooner or later and it all comes back to the opening chapter of your book: The Book of Basketball. Something Zeke told you at a topless pool in Vegas. “The secret of basketball is that it’s not about basketball.”
The Denver Nuggets probably aren’t winning the championship this year and it’s perfectly reasonable to think that they might not even make it out of the first round. After all, Will Barton has the 3rd most playoff experience on the team and he’s played just 81 playoff minutes.
But what makes this team special isn’t just their talent. What makes them different is that they run 15-deep with guys who seem to understand the secret. Last night after the team’s 121-100 blowout win over the Los Angeles Clippers, head coach Michael Malone said this of his young team:
“I love our team. I love the makeup of our team. I love how connected we are. And I love the fact that we really, truly have a selfless group. We all care about each other and about the success of our team before ourselves.”
Bill Walton understood the secret. He also told The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider this about Jokic:
“Happiness begins when selfishness ends. In a game that has been taken over by incessant dribbling for yourself, Nikola Jokic is such a breath of fresh air. And it’s his imagination. Watching him play basketball is like watching Bob Dylan come up with a song.”
Joker occasionally needs prodding to play more selfishly, not less. And it’s not just him, his attitude and style of play is contagious which is why the Nuggets lead the league in assists per 100 possessions despite playing in a free-flowing offense with minimal play calling from the sideline.
So we understand if you aren’t interested in a “nobody believes in us” team of underdogs led by an evolutionary Larry Bird who seems to truly grasp the secret. We get that it’s not your cup of tea and we won’t try to change your mind. We’re honestly just thrilled that you know who we are!
We hope to see you in Denver soon. Perhaps for a playoff game or, who knows, maybe even an NBA Finals? The 2021 Celtics and 2021 Nuggets should be peaking around the same time. Know that we aren’t mad at you if you’re not ready to believe in the Denver Nuggets. Just make sure to call us when you are.