Welcome to the newest writers and contributors for Denver Stiffs! I, Ryan Blackburn, am excited to introduce each and every one of our new writers to the largest Denver Nuggets blog and community on the web. The purpose of this roundtable is to get to know the newest members of our team before the beginning of the 2019-20 NBA season.
Let’s get right into it!
How did you come to love basketball?
Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717): It’s a funny story, my love and the game of basketball. I honestly wasn’t a basketball person until a couple years ago. My favorite sports have always been football and baseball — they still are — but in crept basketball just a few years ago.
I played basketball all the way until high school, which is when I decided to put my dreams of becoming a professional on hold so I could focus more on the aforementioned sports above. Junior year though... I was determined to give it another shot and eventually made the JV squad after countless trips up and down the court, running till I could feel my legs no more. That JV year was one I will never forget, 12 points and 26 rebounds later, I was the third most productive player on the squad according to the coaching staff.
My love for basketball really grew once I graduated high school and began studying journalism at the University of Northern Colorado. My dream was always to become a sports broadcaster, and it was not till my junior year of college that I realized writing about sports — basketball in particular — was one of my passions. During my junior year at UNC, I took a sports writing class in which I covered men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and baseball for the Bears. That basketball season for UNC is one I will never forgot and it is a big reason why I am here today.
When that sports writing class came to a close, I researched what it would take to cover a basketball team — specifically the Denver Nuggets — full-time. Since, I have covered the Nuggets for three seasons for three different websites. In that time, I have grown exponentially as a reporter and I could not be more excited for that journey to continue here with the Stiffs.
Jena Garcia (@vidavivadiva): Ever since I can remember sports have been a part of my life. With two extremely involved grandfathers, I was thrust into competitive sports at a very young age. I played competitive baseball for most of my childhood, up to the point were I was encouraged to switch to softball. At that point I decided to try out basketball. I played through high school and after into college where I had the chance to continue playing overseas. You could say basketball has been there for me growing up since the beginning.
Gage Bridgford (@GbridgfordNFL): Similar to Brandon, I was always more of a football and baseball guy. I played baseball for 13+ years at various levels, and, if my school had a football team, I would have found a way to catch on. Basketball, however, with me being very short until I hit high school, just wasn’t my thing. Eventually, that all flipped just because I got sick one week in high school.
Despite being from Indiana, where basketball runs in the blood of residents like football does in Texas, I didn’t have this deep-rooted love for it over all other sports. I didn’t watch basketball for a good few years, but, during the summer before my senior year of high school, I got bronchitis and a sinus infection. The only thing on TV was the NBA playoffs. So, I just started watching again, and I completely forgot why I ever stopped watching.
Nick Hertzog (@NickHertzogSBN): I’m not sure where it started, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love playing basketball. It probably started with my grandpa, who was a great high school pitcher but loved and played all sports. Or it could have been Kwame, my best friend when I was six-years-old. I know for sure he introduced me to Atari. Or maybe I was born with some weird net-shaped gene that only affects a person’s love of the game and not their ability to play it well (see my stubby fingers). Whatever it was, I was always playing basketball as I grew up, and I still prefer playing basketball to any other sport or physical activity. It’s a game of athleticism, strategy, and physical intensity without the violence of football or hockey, and it has more pace and personality than baseball, more action than soccer. It’s a uniquely great game, one that I have always loved and continue to be drawn to.
When did you discover the Denver Nuggets? Why are they fun to watch?
Ewing: These questions keep taking me back down memory lane and this one in particular really hit close to home. It was a cold winter night — December 22, 2006 to be exact — when Allen Iverson made his Denver Nuggets debut. This was the same time when a young Nuggets fan from Greeley, Colorado really started to take an interest in the squad he now covers.
I’ll never forget watching that game in my basement and holding my breath every time Iverson took a shot because I wanted it to go in that badly. The Iverson/Carmelo Anthony days really drew me into watching the Nuggets, and now I can rattle off Denver legends like Linas Kleiza, Eduardo Nájera, Earl Boykins, Steve Blake, Renaldo Balkman, and Nate Robinson like the back of my hand.
The Nuggets have certainly grown to be a more exciting basketball team over the years and their Serbian big man has a lot to do with that. It is hard to not watch a Nuggets game and jump out of your chair at least five times before the final buzzer sounds. Between Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris, the Nuggets have a foundation in place that is built to succeed over the long haul.
We all are just lucky enough to watch these young Nuggets grow in front of our eyes. Going into an NBA season where the league title is wide open, this Denver squad is a lot different from the rest. An NBA championship is an obtainable goal this year, so let’s enjoy the ride while the good times are well, good.
Garcia: I began watching the Nuggets during the Carmelo era. I had family that attended Syracuse when Melo won the NCAA championship in 2003. When the Nuggets drafted Carmelo, I was all in. That year, I had the opportunity to experience my first Nuggets game. A New Year’s Eve game against the Spurs, where two traveling Spurs fans sat in front of me and cheered every time Manu Ginobli touched the ball. I joined in on Nuggets fandom fairly quickly to counter all that noise.
As with many of my fellow writers, the Thuggets Era: Carmelo, Iverson, JR Smith, and Billups were my formative years of becoming a Nuggets fan. The team was fun and different. They didn’t care about standing out and making a statement. I loved that other fans and teams disliked the Thuggets. And of course the lack of post season competitiveness throughout the years gave me a small market oppressed spirit that only added to my crazy fandom. I never thought I’d be covering a team that I had so closely followed for most of my life.
Bridgford: I’ve never had one specific team that I gave my allegiance to over all other teams. I’ve just loved watching teams that go out on the floor that play well, and they have fun doing that. I came across the Denver Nuggets for the first time regularly during the 2015-16 season during Michael Malone’s first stint as coach.
As the Nuggets morphed into the elite offensive unit that they were during the 2017-18 season, I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. If I wasn’t able to watch a game because of work or whatever reason, I was making sure to watch recaps and highlights and every other piece of content that I could.
Every night, you have no idea what they’re going to do. Nikola Jokic could break out a full-court alley-oop pass with his off hand to Malik Beasley, and, on the next possession, Jamal Murray could cook a defender in isolation. Even if you aren’t a fan, you can’t watch them without enjoying the Nuggets experience.
Hertzog: I began watching basketball when I was eight or nine. I had a TV in my room that only had a few channels, but one of them was WGN, which had all of the Bulls’ games. In time, I became a major part of the Bulls’ championship run as I hit numerous game winners on the Nerf hoop on my door. But after the Bulls refused to give me my rightful due on the podium, I began watching the Nuggets fairly regularly. I liked Dikembe Mutumbo, but found that my game-winning abilities were going to waste since the Nuggets lost so much. That was, of course, until the first-round series against the Sonics in ‘94.
I watched them close it out with my dad, who wasn’t a big sports fan. My enthusiasm was so contagious, apparently, that he got us tickets to Game 4 of the following series against Utah. They won, and McNichols Arena was electric; but more importantly, the game made me a Nuggets fan for life and gave me perhaps the most fond memory I have of doing something with my dad during my formative years.
What continues to draw me to the Nuggets, more than anything else, is that they are the perennial underdogs. Every year they are dismissed, ignored, or disrespected by a national media too focused on geography and not enough on good stories. So when the Nuggets finally break through and win their first championship, all of us — the players, the front office, the fans, the city of Denver, all of us — are going to have earned it.
That, and Jokic is my spirit animal.
What is one thing the Denver Stiffs community should know about you this year?
Ewing: Well, the biggest thing you should know about me is I am a goal-oriented person. My goal for this season is to provide the best Nuggets coverage possible, whether that is on social media or through the stories I write. I know how special it is to be a fan of the Nuggets, and it is my job to provide news and updates that you, the fan, want!
Garcia: Of all the things the Stiffs community should know about me is that I too am a die-hard Nuggets fan. From the beginning of my love for basketball, I have supported this team. And when you love something you want to see it grow and succeed. Loving the sport and the Denver Nuggets does not mean I am unwilling to criticize and report on the decisions of the team though. I know basketball, and while I am not a GM, I have plenty of observations about how a team or a play could be run better. This season I plan to give you all things Nuggets with unbiased coverage to the very best of my abilities.
Bridgford: I’m always willing to hear your criticisms or start a conversation about something. I love to talk sports of just about all varieties from Nuggets basketball to USA curling, current Olympic gold medal champions. Even if you think this guy won’t respond and doesn’t care about this, just send it to me because maybe you’ll help me learn something new, and I’m always excited to learn something new.
Hertzog: I love arguing. But not because I think I’m always right or enjoy upsetting people. It’s just that argument is the best way for me to formulate and refine my opinions. So when I say stupid stuff on The Dig or in a column — stuff like, oh, I don’t know, “Isaiah Thomas is going to start a playoff game for the Denver Nuggets” — feel free to call me out, argue with me in the comments, or debate me on Twitter. There is a lot I don’t know, so I’m happy to revise and retract my opinions based on new insights. As long as the truth comes to light, I’m willing to have an embarrassing hot take or ten to dig it up.