The dreams of October have come true.
Back then, I found myself startled by an unexpected prophecy. If you’re a regular reader, you may remember it, too:
“No illusion. The sports analysis still said the same thing: the Nuggets were the favorite to win the West. With about one chance in eight of winning it all – better than anyone but the Boston Celtics.
“This had to be a joke. Or at least a Jokić.”
Well, we’ve hit the punchline. And it’s a lot better than we dared dream. In a few weeks of near unstoppable play, the Denver Nuggets have tamed the Timberwolves, dimmed the Suns and dried up the Lakers. And based on what we all saw in Game 1, they should be ready to make like an air conditioner and beat the Heat.
I know, I know. Prediction’s a dangerous game in the sports world – ask any number of NFL teams who held a fourth-quarter lead on John Elway. It’s not over ‘til the last buzzer sounds, you’ve gotta play all the games, etc., etc., etc.
Fine. True. But it’s not just THAT the Nuggets have been winning that impresses me. It’s HOW.
In theatre terms, this team is a true ensemble production.
Most plays, movies and TV shows have a simple structure: they focus on the leads. Sure, supporting roles can be memorable and beloved, but most of the action is dominated by a small number of key characters.
Ensemble shows are different. Even if there’s someone whose name is officially on top of the marquee, it’s often in name only. Everyone’s got a heavy lift and the show rises or falls on the strength of all the performers and the connections between them. Think of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” or Marvel’s “The Avengers,” or for the stage buffs, the wild lunacy of “Noises Off.”
That’s Denver. It’s not just Nikola Jokić and his Backup Band. It’s a full cast of characters, all of them dangerous in the moment. Shut down one, and you still have all the others bearing down on you.
That’s hard to beat on the court. Or off it, for that matter.
Sure, we’d all like to be the lone gunslinger. And heaven knows a lot of us have experience with “group projects” that were mostly an excuse for one person to do the work and five people to get an “A.” Sometimes the crowd even feels stifling; I’m an introvert at heart, so I understand just how healing and powerful some time alone can be.
But a real team, one that plays to everybody’s strengths … that’s a force of nature.
Even the best of us aren’t strong enough to do everything alone all the time. We need each other. That came through with razor-sharp clarity in the early days of the pandemic, when isolation exposed just how many connections we relied on in the world – connections that had to be rebuilt in new ways – and how daunting “alone” could be at times.
When other people are just extra bodies on the stage, that’s frustrating to navigate around. But when each of them is a source of strength, it opens up the world. New solutions become possible. The story changes.
So once again, best wishes to Joker, Murray, Porter, KCP, Gordon, Brown and all the rest of the Team-with-a-Capital-T. Together, you’ve reached the brink of a dream.
And if that isn’t a Nugget of truth, I don’t know what is.