The ball sailed through the air towards the rim, every eye in the gym on the shot. For a moment, it hung on the rim before dropping through the net, just before the game ended. The home team and gathered crowd at the Pepsi Center cheered…

That was certainly not last night for your Denver Nuggets, after a tough loss at home to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Maybe it was one of the recent spate of home wins the Nugs have enjoyed at the Pepsi Center… it could have been, but wasn’t. This game was a bit more special. Appropriate to it’s holiday. More on that in a second.

Back in a previous life, I was so lucky as to get to perform at the closing ceremonies for the Winter Special Olympics in Copper Mountain, Colorado. For nearly a decade, I got to witness some of the most spirited and heartfelt competition I’ve ever witnessed in my life. For every moment I was able to give, I was given what seemed a hundred incredible moments in return.

At one years’ closing ceremony, just after dark we stood on stage and sang the Cyndi Lauper tune “True Colors”. We didn’t know the event organizers had planned this, but in the dark a few dozen skiiers started down from the top of the hill with a colored flare in each hand, slowly weaving back and forth. The athletes who had been watching us turned around and started to cheer, as we sang to what looked like fifty brilliantly colored fireflies winding their way down the mountain. It was beautiful and completely unexpected. By the time the skiiers were down, I couldn’t find a dry eye in the place, my own included. A moment I believe I will remember amongst my very last.

The opening paragraph loosely describes a moment of the amazing Valentine’s Day that your Denver Nuggets got to spend with the athletes of the Colorado Special Olympics at the Pepsi Center. Through games and drills, talks and laughter, an amazing day was shared by some incredible athletes. The cheering crowd was made up of Nuggets players, staffers, and media, with the athletes extremely excited to be around the pros. As is often true, the Special Olympics athletes were learning and teaching at the same time, in a day that’s now become a highly-anticipated annual tradition for both sides.

The giant hearts of these Denver Nuggets are matched – and possibly surpassed – by the Special Olympics athletes. You can see the pure joy for everyone involved in a few of the photos shared by Nuggets PR wiz Tim Gelt, as taken by Bart Young:

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Denver Stiffs’ Zach Mikash put up a great piece on Monday about the likeability and closeness of this current Nuggets team, a piece of a larger puzzle that ought to earn a couple of extra Emotional Quotient points with a budding group of Nuggets fans. That group may tack on another EQ point or two for the meaningful time the players spent with their fellow athletes on Valentine’s Day. Zach’s point is well made. This Nuggets team is so very easy to like.

So, while the Nuggets spend countless hours working to be amongst the best players in the world, the comparative bits of time they spend freely giving of themselves in their community forms a bond between the team, players, and fan base that could pay huge dividends down the road.

Should you be so inspired as to want to share some of your time or wherewithal with the Special Olympics, you can find out a lot more about the organization here. Should you suddenly feel compelled to give of yourself in another spot, a quick Google search about places to donate your time or money gives back over 35 million results. If you find a spot on that long list to give to others in a way that brings you some personal meaning, whatever bits you can give will come back your way in ways you cannot imagine, and in larger returns than you spent.

Happy belated Valentine’s Day, everyone. For your Nuggets, there were certainly a lot of hearts shared by all for this year’s version. How do you give back, Nuggets Nation? And how has doing so rewarded you in return?