Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Updated: May 30, 12:40 PM ET
Life of Reilly ®
By Rick Reilly
ESPN The Magazine
What do you have against us Denver Nuggets fans?
In nine years of ABA play, and 32 more in the NBA, we've never won a title. Scratch that. We've never been to a single NBA Finals. And now that the Lakers punched our clocks in six games, they'll be going to their 30th. Is that your idea of an eye for an eye, 30-0? If there is a season for all things, when's ours?
Wasn't it bad enough what you'd already put us through? We are a franchise that once lost a record 23 straight games. One year, we only won 11! In military terms, we are the Iraqi Air Force.
Maybe this will give You an idea: We have a street in Denver named for a Nuggets trainer, but none for a Nuggets player.
You think You sent Job heartache? Job was a Rothschild compared to us.Wasn't it bad enough what you'd already put us through? We are a franchise that once lost a record 23 straight games. One year, we only won 11! In military terms, we are the Iraqi Air Force.
Do You remember guiding our GM to use a 1996 first-round pick on a Greek player named Efthimios Rentzias, whom he'd never had the pleasure of meeting? That became apparent when a team suit finally visited Mr. Rentzias, who was supposed to be 6-foot-11, and realized he was 6-7. Oops.
Do You remember finally sending us a big center in 1978: 6-11 Geoff Crompton? Twenty games into his career, he blew out his knee by not-quite-jumping over a two-foot-high chain in front of McNichols Arena. Never played for us again.
Do You remember Dec. 13, 1983, when You allowed us to score 184 points in a single game … and LOSE? The Detroit Pistons scored 186 that night. I know. I was there.
Being a Denver Nuggets fan means never having to say you're happy.
You couldn't let us win, just this once?
Yes, people call us the Thuggets. And yes, we are the most tatted-up group since the prison carnival hit town. And yes, Nuggets players had far and away the most technicals in the league this season. But these are good boys -- a little high-spirited perhaps -- but nice to their mothers. Hey, Carmelo Anthony didn't punch anybody this entire year!
An NBA title would've meant so much to those of us who have waited in the standings basement all these years … like Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups, the only Nugget ever born and raised in Denver.
"I think about what it would be like, and I really just can't imagine it," Billups said. "That's how bad it's been here -- I can't imagine it. I hate to say it and I hate to mean it, but it's the truth.
"When I played here the first time (1998-2000), you'd be playing the Lakers and look up in the stands and see half the crowd in purple and gold. You'd be playing the Celtics and see half green and white. It was tough, man."
For awhile there, we were starting to believe there really was a You. Because You sent us a Melo, a Birdman and a J.R. Swish. You banished Allen Iverson and his 6-for-31s and brought us Billups, the pass-first, get-back-second, shoot-third hoops genius I used to go watch at George Washington High School. You've put us in the conference finals, a mountaintop we haven't been to since 1985.
Remember? Before that one started, our coach -- Doug Moe -- kicked off the joyous occasion by saying "We got no shot."
Since then, we've run a substitution pattern of famine, plague and pestilence, the last of which was a man named Nikoloz Tskitishvili, on whom we wasted the fifth overall pick in 2002, while passing on stiffs like Amare Stoudemire, Caron Butler and Carlos Boozer. Tskitishvili was really tskitty. One time, he took a wide-open jumper and hit the shot clock.
You sent us Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. He wouldn't stand for the national anthem. You sent us Bernie Bickerstaff, a GM who could find talent the way robins find lobsters.
But then things started to change. You gave us hope, faith and an owner who married into the Walton family. Even though nobody in America agreed, we actually thought these Nuggets could bring a living, breathing, holy-crap NBA title to our little flyover state. Who would have thought something so precious could come from Wal-Mart?
Lord, I've been a Rockets/Nuggets addict since I was 9, and I was honestly picturing my lovable, dog-butt Nuggets winning it all. This state would've come unglued. People would've painted the Front Range powder blue. Half a million fans would've clogged the streets. People would've stood on John Elway to get a view.
"Oh, man," Billups said, a misty look in his eye. "A parade? Just get me there, man. Just get me there."
But no. We're not going there. As usual, when it really mattered, you gave all the skill, fire and courage to a basketball god named Kobe Bryant and turned the Nugs into pillars of salt. Turns out we had no shot.
Still, it was our greatest year ever, which isn't saying much. Sort of like saying, "Taylor Hicks just topped his previous sales record!"
Next year maybe? If Wal-Mart puts little chapels over by auto care?
Don't forget -- I was an altar boy.
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|So much for prayers.|