It must have felt like a matter of time. After all, when the Denver Nuggets joined the NBA in 1976, they were fresh off an appearance in the American Basketball Association finals and soon showed the Lakers and Celtics of the world that they weren’t to be underestimated: They made the conference semifinals in their first season and the conference finals in their second. Surely no one expected it would take the Nuggets 47 years to reach their first NBA Finals. But it did. And you know what? It was worth the wait.
Because the Nuggets team that finally accomplished the feat is special. The squad that will tip-off against the Miami Heat on June 1 with the Larry O’Brien Trophy at stake stars two players, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., who suffered through season-long injuries only to return better than before. The coach, Michael Malone, was fired by the Association’s most moribund franchise before resurrecting his reputation in the Mile High City. And then there’s Nikola Jokić. The Serbian center has blossomed from a second-round pick into one of the greatest players in NBA history. Together, they’ve not only earned a trip to the Finals, but they did so by throttling the Lakers, the franchise that had thrice beaten the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.
That being said, these are uncharted waters—for both the Nuggets and their fans. Which is why we’ve compiled a collection of stories that, among other things, provide a map of how Denver finally managed to build a championship-caliber roster, a guide for betting on the Nuggets, and a list of grievances that will help unleash your inner hatred of the Heat. Because as we know all too well, title teams don’t come around every year, so let’s make the most of this one. —Spencer Campbell, features editor