Rodney Dangerfield made a comedic career out of the lack of respect he’d gotten. In his early career, in his life, in his daily interaction with humanity. By the time he was done, his biting everyman had become so popular, he’d acted in some of the 80’s biggest comedies and was enshrined at no less than the Smithsonian. No respect at all, I tell ya. Dangerfield’s lack of respect sure ended up earning him a ton.
Your Denver Nuggets have had to earn their newfound respect a little less humorously, but possibly just as painfully, scrabbling from a precipitous tumble a few seasons back. Such things are not unique for Mile High Basketball. The Nuggets have always had to fight to earn their respect amongst the NBA haves and have-nots, so the chip on Nuggets Nation’s shoulder has the weight of a few more seasons and dry spells than just this recent stumble.
These feelings run all the way back to Denver’s move over from the ABA. The Queen City of the Plains has always had to make her voice heard amongst the hoops hoi polloi to simply garner the type of coverage their coastline companions enjoy during their worst years. That has often translated to an uphill battle in acquiring and maintaining the best talent the Nuggets can bring in. Lather, rinse, repeat.
That also translates to a Nuggets fan base who have frequently had to remind their basketball watching brethren that they’re still playing. When Denver falls off the NBA radar, they fall hard, with national networks often leaving them as a footnote in stories and recaps, whether winning or losing. In ways, it’s hard to blame the broadcasters for looking at the data. Until the current squad began garnering this season’s wave of attention, they routinely fell amongst the teams receiving the least attention from fans online, outside of their core fanbase. This resulted in national recaps of games against more popular teams where the edited highlight reel might show nine highlights of the popular team, and one of the Nuggets best plays with a mention that Denver had actually won the game. That lack of respect when you’re on the outside looking in can make for tough stretches when you’re not at your best, for organizations and fanbases alike.
It’s not always like that around here, to be sure. The peak days of Thompson, Issel, English, Anthony, Iverson, and more have certainly garnered national attention to the Nuggets when a superstar is amongst their midst. Denver just doesn’t enjoy the same attention buffer that the major market teams do when it comes to the respect of fans or pundits.
The competition on the floor tends to pay attention to the ebbs and flows of other teams more quickly, and rightly so. They’re the ones seeing the changes in teams firsthand on the court, and have been hip to the trajectory of your Nuggets for a few seasons now. Even so, many national players and former players who have expressed appreciation for where this Nuggets team has gotten itself to have still expressed surprise at how quickly the pieces have now come together in Denver this season.
Just yesterday, national sports media had a couple of in-depth and excellent stories surrounding Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and the Nuggets with The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor covering Jokic as the centerpiece of this uniquely constructed Denver squad, and ESPN’s always-exceptional Jackie MacMullan giving an in-depth look at rising star Murray, and his unique journey to where he is, who he is, and how he is. These pieces sit amongst dozens of others covering Denver’s improbable first half of the season, and the fun and unique culture they’ve built in the Mile High City. If you’re a member of the organization or fan of the team, the recent spotlight has been exceptional to bask in, hearing all of the unique perspectives and thoughts around your team.
All of that attention comes with the respect of both the media and the competition. That’s ideal and desired for this young team’s next steps as a force in the next wave of the NBA upcoming in the next year and decade. To be getting this respect means you’ve made a splash. People are well aware of who you are, and have come to understand you’ve worked your way to the upper echelon of the league’s best teams. That respect also earns you the best shot that each team up and down the schedule can give you. They want to know if you’re for real, and measure themselves against you. Those shoves and bumps you got from Golden State and Utah this last week or so? From Oklahoma City last go-round? That’s how teams will be coming at you for the second half of the season, until you’re either battle-tested-and-better or busted by the time the year is said and done.
It’s an exciting second half the rest of the way, Nuggets Nation. That target on your back makes it all a little more nerve-wracking, but it’s hanging there because you seem to have found a little something you’d been looking for for a while now.
With everyone giving the Denver their respect in the second half of the season, the Nuggets will end up:
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