Like most of you, basketball has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It’s a great way to connect with old friends, and an even better way to make new ones. It can be used as a reason to get together with family, and have a cookout. And, it’s a surefire conversation starter with nearly anyone anywhere you go.

When things get busy at work I often turn to basketball as an escape. Even though it’s sometimes stressful in itself given the current uncertain situation the Nuggets are in in the Western Conference, the break away from the every day is refreshing. Even if it’s just a whole new set of problems to solve.

I often say that I enjoy watching basketball in the NBA because I love to be around excellence. These world-class athletes are the best of the best at their craft, and the work they put in every day creates the world that we all get to be a part of. Most of the time these players have no control over who they play for. They’re simply doing what we all do day in and day out—working as hard as we can to make a life for ourselves and our families.

I have tremendous respect for the players in this league. Yes, they get paid a very handsome fee for their efforts, but they also expose themselves to the intense (and often mean-spirited) criticism of literally anyone with access to a phone, and a social media account. I often think to myself that I’m grateful to work in an industry where I’m not subject to public criticism from lay people who have no clue what goes into what I do every day.

Basketball is a part of me, and Nuggets basketball is even closer to my heart. However, I like to look at the basketball universe as a sort of community. From the Cleveland Cavaliers, to the Golden State Warriors, to the Miami Heat, and the Denver Nuggets, basketball fans across the world share one thing in common—a great love for the game.

When a player who plays for one of the Nuggets’ bitter rivals sustains a serious injury, I genuinely feel upset for that player, and for the league as a whole. When I watch a team who has put their heart and soul into winning make it to a higher level in the playoffs, I’m genuinely happy for them and their fan base. Yes, I ultimately want to see the Nuggets accomplish their goals and I can’t wait to be there when that moment happens, but that doesn’t take away from my overall appreciation for the game.

When we think of the term competitor, we often equate that with enemy when our competitors are vital to our existence. Sure, we want to win at the end of the day, but as enthusiasts of the game it’s also possible to appreciate the performance of our competitor alongside the other fan bases in the league.

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It was heartbreaking to see the Nuggets lose to the Lakers this past week in what became a highly emotional contest after Jamal Murray lit a fire within the Lakers organization by talking a little trash. I happen to not mind that Murray got excited and passionate about what he was doing, and I believe this is an indication that he may be the one who will ignite the Nuggets when they’re ready to take things to the next level. But, regardless of how you feel about Murray’s actions, you were probably really interested in gathering around the TV for the next contest in the Nuggets/Lakers series.

Maybe you threw some friendly jabs at your Laker-fan friends, and maybe you invited some folks over to watch the game together. What I was most interested in is how powerful our love for the game can be. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people came together to participate in this game with their fellow fans across the world.

I won’t go into depth about how disappointed I was to see fans viciously, and personally attacking each other on social media, but to put it simply I was truly unimpressed.

My fellow fan loves the game for the same reasons I love the game. My fellow fan has connected to their team for some of the same reasons I have connected to my team. And, my fellow fan is a person just like me who is hoping to see their team make it to the top.

We disagree on what we want the end result to be, but my fellow fan makes it more fun to watch the games I watch. Without our rivals, why would we be interested? In all of us lies a strong desire to compete, and win. But, winning doesn’t take place if there is no one to defeat.

So, for that reason, and for my deep love and respect for the game, I choose to appreciate the efforts of my competitors when they win. I will be disappointed when my team loses, but I will be happy for the fans of my rival when they experience victory.

After all, I’ll still wake up tomorrow and go to work just like I do every day regardless of the outcome of a basketball game. I am deeply interested in furthering the sense of community within the NBA universe. I love to be part of it, and I want to continue to enjoy it as long as I can.

It’s not that I don’t take games seriously, it’s that I take them very seriously, to the point where I want to protect the fun I have while interacting with others as we watch the game together. Light-hearted jabs, and good-natured teasing brings us together. But, at the end of the night I maintain my love for the basketball community as a whole.

It won’t be long before the Nuggets get to take a victory over the Lakers once again, and we can all celebrate another defeat of a rival. In the meantime, I can be happy for the Lakers and the direction they’re headed as an organization. They’ll be a team the Nuggets will need to be prepared for every game as both teams grow their young cores. I can’t wait to see how the story develops.