Columnists, Featured, Mike Rosen, Uncategorized

Rosen: Celebrating the historic Nuggets championship

Normally, I write in this space about politics and public policy, today I’m switching gears to join the millions of fans in Colorado, and even in faraway Serbia, gushing over the Denver Nuggets and their spectacular finish to a truly historic season.  (Hey, George Will sometimes writes about baseball.  I’ve got sports cred growing up in NYC in the 1950’s with the Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, Rangers, Knicks, and Football Giants, and I’ve been a sports fan since early childhood.)

Coach Michael Malone told his players that closeout games are the toughest to win.  For the players, and the fans, that’s certainly the way it looked in the first half of the final game.  The Nuggets came out a little tight, couldn’t throw a three-point shot in the ocean, turned the ball over, and missed free throws.  But shame on ye fans of little faith.  The Nugs turned it around in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter — which the Heat said they owned throughout the playoffs — making three critical threes (including a big one, at last, by MPJ), protecting the ball, and nailing clutch free throws in crunch time.

The post-game awards and celebration were heartwarming indeed, as was Jamal Murray — falling to his knees on the court after the game in tears of joy after two years of knee rehab.  And who wasn’t moved by that iconic picture of playoff MVP Nicola Jokic (now the undoubted all-around best basketball player in the world – and a great person, too) holding his adorable toddler, Ognjen, in his arms as she reached out in wonder for the confetti swirling in the air around her?  Or 36-year-old “Uncle” Jeff Green soaking in the moment, at long last, of a championship after 17 years on 11 different teams.  (Don’t you dare say he couldn’t hold a job!)

The Nuggets playoff run was a crowning achievement after a 47-year drought.  (The Colorado Rockies still have 16 years to beat their time by one.)  In the gala parade downtown, the Nuggets family joined the Broncos and Avalanche in the champions club.  The Joker and Murray stood in a basket atop the lead firetruck hoisting the championship trophy to the delight of half a million fans.  Several players and Michael Malone, celebrating like kids who just won the Little League World Series, hit the street, high-fiving with the fans along the way.

The only lowlight of that final game was the worst officiating call in the history of NBA Championship Finals.  In the waning minutes, the Heat staged a last-ditch comeback.  Jimmy Butler made two consecutive three pointers from the corner followed by another attempt that missed.  Aaron Gordon — the Nuggets’ defensive standout of the entire playoffs — went straight up to pressure the shot without encroaching on Butler’s landing area.  But Butler flopped, threw out a leg unnaturally and kicked Gordon solidly in the privates.  Astoundingly, a ref called the foul on Gordon.  Coach Malone challenged the call, then the game refs and the staff at the NBA Replay Center in Secaucus, New Jersey scrutinized the replay; as did everyone in the arena, and millions of TV viewers around the world.  It clearly showed Gordon to be an innocent man unfairly convicted — if anything, the foul was Butler’s.  (It’s a miracle Gordon’s reproductive plumbing wasn’t damaged for life.)  Inexplicably, the NBA jury denied the challenge and upheld the bad call.  Butler was awarded three free throws, sunk them all and got the Heat perilously close.  That miscarriage of justice could have cost the Nuggets the game and, who knows, possibly the championship thereafter.  Fortunately, it didn’t and was mostly forgotten in the post-game coverage — but not by me!  The NHL penalizes obvious flopping with a two-minute stint in the penalty box for “embellishment.”  The NBA really needs to crack down on this all too frequent play acting.

Lastly, while we’re still basking in the glow of this glorious event, here’s a suggestion and a hope.  Now’s the perfect time for Nuggets, Avs, and Altitude TV owner Stan Kroenke and Comcast to resolve their financial standoff that has blocked Avs and Nuggets fans from watching the games on Colorado’s dominant cable network.  The situation has dramatically changed in the last two years with the Avs and Nuggets winning back-to-back championships.  Their growing audience drives up TV ratings, cable subscriptions, ad revenues, and the value of broadcast rights.  Both party’s win.

But this isn’t just about business.  It’s also about gratitude and loyalty to the fans who buy tickets to the games and watch them on TV.  Compared to the billions of dollars generated by these two businesses, they’re haggling over relatively small change.  Why not magnanimously split the difference and make a deal?  It’s a public relations slam dunk.

Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for


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