We are the CITs so piteous

The kids are brats, the food is hideous

We’re gonna smoke and drink and fool around

(We’re nookie-bound)

We’re Northstar CITs

Most every kid at my Junior High School was a cool kid. They all went to amazing parties, drank only the finest wine coolers, and had high-class skincare professionals who took care of their runaway acne, rendering it invisible to the naked eye. Admittedly, I could only suppose all of these “facts”, as I was decidedly one of the least-cool kids in my school. I would dream about having cool-kid friends (or any friends, really), and how remarkable those wine coolers and urbane conversations might taste. I felt fairly certain both would leave me a little woozy and taste vaguely of berries.

At the start of another poorly-socialized Summer break, I ended up catching a movie I’d never seen before, a Bill Murray comedy called Meatballs. It was the hilarious tale of a bunch of social misfits at the Northstar summer camp and their efforts to fit in, make friends, and get away with an unbelievable amount of pranks and jokes. My 13 year old self was instantly smitten, and I found I wanted to be a Northstar CIT (Counselor in Training) more than anything I’d ever wanted in my whole life. Misfits or not, they were the coolest group of kids I’d ever been privy to listen in on. I watched it a second time later that day as I committed the movie to videotape… Just in case I decided to catch it again. That night, I dreamt of my induction into the Northstar CITs. I ended up watching that damned movie every day of that summer break, and somehow my exasperated family never decided to smother me in my sleep or burn the videotape in the back yard. I think I could probably still recite most of it by heart. A decidedly uncool kid.

A few years down the road, I got to spend some time with a few of those cool kids. I sadly discovered that they weren’t nearly so cool as I’d made them out to be, and nothing tasted like berries at all, but a couple of things tasted even better. Like it or not, everybody wants to hang out with the cool kids.

For the lion’s share of their half-century-plus in Colorado, your Denver Nuggets have very much NOT been the NBA’s cool kids. That has been due to a number of factors, some seemingly permanent (location, weather, and location), and some transitory (poor management, team construction, and non-aligned vision). While the periods of time a die-hard Nuggets fan remembers as our “Glory Days” are scattered across their history, there have been few-to-zero times that the rest of the league’s “cool kids” have looked at the Mile High City as a highly sought-after destination.

But those days may be a thing of the past for these Denver Nuggets.  

If you’re an NBA player who wants a chance to win it all in the next five years, you’d be hard-pressed (outside of the Bay Area) to find a more promising situation to do it in. The Nuggets are rife with talent and potential, coming off of one of their most exciting seasons. But don’t take it from me, take it from the Nuggets far-more-concise President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly:

Pretty straightforward, no? But supposing you’re already one of those NBA cool kids, and are looking for a situation to best showcase your skills, without some alpha dog ball hog keeping you from your slice of the glory pie. You won’t find a spot better suited to your needs than Denver, as long as you’re willing to share in return. These Nuggets pass the ball around as well as any team in the league, with their alpha, Nikola Jokic, sharing at a clip that has inspired his team to do the same from top to bottom. Make the right plays in this offense, and you are sure to get yours, a situation most players would kill for.

And what about cohesion? Even in their most-successful seasons, the Nuggets were often a disjointed lot, with the Carmelo Anthony days a clear cluster on and off the floor, from coaches to the far end of the bench. While the days of Dan Issel, Alex English, and Kiki Vandeweghe were smooth on the hardwood, and weren’t very contentious off the court, the interviews I can ferret out on the team of that era still had them all going their separate ways when the whistle blew. Today’s Nuggets are close-knit in the extreme, often spending hours on and off the court together. As an example, guard Gary Harris will be making a second summer jaunt to Jokic’s home of Sombor, Serbia, to pay a visit and spend some time. Not because he has to, but because he enjoyed the trip so much last summer. Their bond has grown organically, with Harris often being Jokic’s ride home from the airport during their early days together. This is one of literally dozens of stories about this highly cohesive crew, with their locker room culture the envy of the league. Who wouldn’t want to step into a situation that’s a million miles removed from reports of the locker rooms a thousand miles in either direction?

Even the permanent aspects of what used to be dissuaders are melting away like spring snow in Colorado, with a booming economy, a vibrant culture, and weather that is far less frigid than advertised. NBA players and new transplants alike are coming to understand that Denver is an amazingly great place to live and play.

So… NBA players take note. Mile High City Basketball offers an incredible culture, outstanding opportunities, and one of the youngest and most-fun spots to play in the league. It can absolutely be cool playing hoops in Denver, because after all these years, what this Nuggets organization has built has the cool kids are already here.

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