Thursday, April 30, 2009

Denver Nuggets

I was happy to find out this morning that my favorite NBA team (the Denver Nuggets) won game 5 of their series with the New Orleans Hornets to advance to Round 2 of the NBA Playoffs to face the Dallas Mavericks. This is their first playoff series win in 15 years. This of course may prompt you to ask "Why do you root for the Denver Nuggets"?

Go back with me to the mid 1970s. The NBA was nowhere as popular as it is now. They might a show a few games a year on TV plus parts of the playoffs. I seem to remember they even would tape-delay playoff games. There was another basketball league back then called the ABA (the American Basketball Association). They used a red, white, and blue basketball (I used to have one, wish I still did). They pioneered several basketball changes that the NBA actually adopted including the 3-point shot, the slam-dunk contest, and high school kids going directly to the pros (i.e Moses Malone). There was a team in that league called the Kentucky Colonels that played in Louisville. Not only that, they had two prominent former UK players in Louie Dampier and arguably the best Wildcat of all time - Dan Issel.

They were very competitive in the ABA. There was a country-city rivalry with the New York Nets and their star player Julius "Dr. J" Erving. Kentucky finally won the ABA championship in the 1974-1975 season. They challenged the NBA champs (the Golden State Warriors) to a championship series which the Warriors declined. Things were looking great! Then, in a bizarre move in the off season, the owner of the Colonels sold Dan Issel to the Baltimore Claws (a new ABA franchise).

That owner was John Y Brown. He is well known to Kentuckians as the man who bought KFC from Colonel Sanders (later selling it). He was also governor of the State from 1979-1983. He later divorced his first wife and married Phyllis George. She was a former Miss America and the first prominent female NFL sportscaster. Brown made me even more upset after the season when he refused to pony up to have Kentucky move to the NBA (when the ABA finally folded) with the New York (later the New Jersey) Nets, the San Antonio Spurs, the Indiana Pacers and finally the Denver Nuggets. He ended up buying the Buffalo Braves team right after that (they became the LA Clippers). I pushed everybody I knew to not vote for him for governor in 1979 and would never vote for him for anything after that.

Well, the Claws folded in something like a week after the season. Dan Issel ended up with the Denver Nuggets. With Issel being a UK guy plus the Nuggets being an ABA team, I started rooting for them and have ever since. They had good teams those first few years and even got to the West finals in 1987 before losing to the Lakers (with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar). Ever since, they've bounced back and forth between mediocre and terrible (one year they lost 23 games in a row!). They've made some good personnel moves in the past few years. The final piece was getting point guard Chauncey Billups in exchange for Allen Iverson at the start of this year. I'm cautiously optimistic.

Hope you enjoyed what my sons would surely call "an old man story".


CShel24 said...

I don't know if you have discovered this, but here is a NEW ABA out there, I just stumbled upon this myself the other day. To add to the excitement, KY has a team in the new ABA, and even more excitement, they actually won the ABA championship this year.

Stuart Yancy said...

I did not know that. I see where Brandon Stockton plays for them, I remember when he played for UK. Looks like he is getting more playing time in the ABA than for UK!

Thanks for the info!