The City of Denver renamed a downtown road “Denver Nuggets Way” Wednesday in honor of the team’s first appearance in the NBA Finals.
“We get a chance to see history!” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said at the ceremony.
Hancock, Nuggets mascot Rocky, the Nuggets Dancers and city workers unveiled Denver Nuggets Way in anticipation of Game 1 of the championship series Thursday evening.
“I think the city does a good job of advertising for their sports fans and for the people of the city,” said Berndettte Apadaca, who is a lifelong Denver resident and Nuggets fan since the 80s. “And of course this is their team, so they're gonna try to represent them.”
The Mile High City pro and amateur sports teams have brought home several national titles. Just last year the Colorado Avalanche won their third Stanley Cup in the NHL. The Colorado Mammoth are currently defending their National Lacrosse League title and playing for a third Saturday. And the Broncos have three Lombardi trophies on the shelf.
But the Nuggets have never made an NBA Finals appearance in their 47-year history.
Susan Gallo thought former Nugget All-Stars like Carmelo Anthony and Chancey Billups would take them to the promised land, but they fell short on multiple occasions. The Nuggets made three Western Conference Finals appearances only to be sent packing by the dreaded L.A. Lakers each time. Now, she’s more than confident.
“We've had some tough times in between. But with (Nikola) Jokic, and (Jamal) Murray and MPJ (Micheal Porter, Jr.), we've got a really solid team,” Gallo said. “And hopefully those four wins will come easily and we will be celebrating in this park in a few weeks.”
The Denver Nuggets have experienced plenty of playoff heartbreak in its half-century as a franchise. Denver native Randy Davis knows this too well. He’s been a Nuggets fan for 50 years and even rooted for them when they were Denver Rockets in the old American Basketball Association.
At Chopper’s Sports Grill, a sports bar named after longtime Nuggets trainer Robert “Chopper” Traviglini, Davis talked about his favorite memories of the team in the 80s.
“Those times with Dan Issell and Alex English and all those guys, that was my favorite time,” Davis said. “Back in the day, I used to get my haircut with David Thompson and Floyd Little and those guys were down in Denver. So, it's been great.”
So, when the Nuggets finally beat LA as well as the vaunted Lebron James, Davis was excited.
“The Lakers have been our nemesis for pretty much the entire 50 years I've been watching those guys. We always get to that point, and they take us out. So it’s very sweet that we swept them,” Davis said.
Davis’ emotions are high, But he’s trying to keep them in check until the team actually wins the title.
And the Larry O’Brien Trophy isn’t the only thing fans are hoping to win.
They’re also looking for respect across the league.
Ryan Leopando says the Nuggets have not been the national talking heads favorite despite having the best record in the Western Conference. He believes many people are still stuck on the Lakers.
“I think Denver's got more talent than anyone that's left and they're not getting the respect that they should because everybody's all about the Lakers in LeBron not making it,” Leopando said. “I get it. But they need to give Denver and the Nuggets and Joker the respect that they need.”
As he unveiled the new name for the road previously known as Bannock Street, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock had a message for the national media.
“Forget y'all!” Hancock said. “Our Denver Nuggets are bringing home the championship. You don't have to give us credit, they're gonna earn the credit.”
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