“The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work.”

-Harry Golden

Any sports fan that celebrates their team wants to see them win the ultimate prize, eventually. That’s why you bring a certain air of circumspection to a conversation about basketball as a Denver Nuggets fan. Year upon year of bad fortune, whether via inbounds, insanity, or infighting, has haunted you. Illness, idiocy, and infamy shared their places as well. For every bit of good fortune you’ve experienced, you’ve watched more bits of misfortune follow. You sit on the sideline to watch some other fanbase celebrate their good fortunes, and quietly curse the gods of NuggLife.

For every Dikembe Mutombo, there seem to be two Tony Batties. You watch the surreal skills of an Antonio McDyess or LaPhonso Ellis sapped away too quickly by injury, or a David Thompson by his own demons. The names and talent that litter the history of the franchise make it a surprise that they’ve never reached an NBA Finals after so many seasons in the league. Some of that history has been wildly entertaining, and some of it monumentally exasperating. It has yet to result in a ring.

Odds are pretty damned decent this won’t be that year, either. Even the most ardent Nuggets fan probably don’t doubt that. But doubt is a funny thing.

Paul Millsap was drafted 47th in his class, with doubts from every team he could be of value. Even once he proved his value in the league, he had exactly one team falling all over themselves for his services two seasons back. Nikola Jokic must have had a few folks doubting him as well, as the 41st pick. Gary Harris, Will Barton, Torrey Craig, Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, and Mason Plumlee have all had doubt upon doubt heaped upon them at one point or another, some even in the last week. Hell, even seventh pick Jamal Murray fell below where many expected him drafted. Somebody, or most everybody, doubted each of these guys on one level or another, individually.

Collectively wasn’t much different. After barely missing the playoffs the last two years, it was fashionable to doubt the Nuggets luck again coming into this season. They’ve smashed those doubts to bits this season, being playoff eligible every day of the campaign, and never falling below second place after Christmas. Good fortune from their hard work.

Still, they skidded through the last couple weeks of the season, trying to gel from injuries and cold shooting. Somehow the Nuggets saw every team around them win or lose over those last few contests to best insulate Denver from their worst playoff threats going into the postseason. Good fortune, mostly from their hard work.

Every time it has appeared as if their backs are against the wall in the regular season and these playoffs, that they may be down for the count, the Nuggets have come back swinging, and fortune has yet again fallen on their side, mostly from their hard work, and occasionally from the good fortune of a few long overdue lucky bounces. Back to back games? Denver is the best in the league at wrapping them up. Same for home record and wins in closely contested finishes. There may be a little luck in what’s involved, but a lot more of it is guts, fearless determination, and an “I could do this all day” attitude whether up or down by a dozen. These Denver Nuggets will be fighting to finish, even when all hope is lost. It’s one of their most endearing qualities, and has helped carry them over the hump in countless situations when everyone else has counted them out. Chalk it up to the never-say-die attitude of their coach, Michael Malone.

For every hardship the Nuggets have faced in the regular season and postseason, another doubter has emerged to say, “See? This is finally the end of their story! See the Fraudulent Five, the Nebulous Nuggets for what they really are!” Those voices are finally pretty silent at this point. While Denver’s season will absolutely end sometime in the next 1-15 games, there’s no doubt that they are decidedly not pretenders. Not castaways. No, this is one of the up-and-coming squads in the league, with fixable flaws, and one of the best and most cohesive locker room cultures in the NBA. For every moment your butt has puckered as a member of Nuggets Nation this season waiting for the other shoe to drop, this Nuggets squad has time and again come through and reassured you. They are tough as nails, and they are the real deal. Whether they lose to Portland on Sunday or manage nine more wins this season, nothing can change that fact now. Are you not entertained?

NuggLife is dead. Long live NuggLife.

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