It’s official: My NBA boycott is over. If I’m honest, it’s been over for well over a year now, but it’s time to make it public. In 2019, when the NBA kowtowed to the Communist Party of China instead of backing one of its owners who’d come out publicly against the CCP’s tyranny over Hong Kong activists, I, like so many others, was disgusted by the privileging of profit over the principle of human rights.
Truth be told, the NBA had lost me a long time ago. Players are not refereed equally, mega stars are catered to and can control the outcome of a game, diving and flopping have increased and the game simply doesn’t have the same rhythm it did when I was a kid.
But then these Nuggets came along, a group that defies the egotism that has taken over the NBA.
It all starts with Nikola Jokic, a fun, down-to-earth likeable player. His style of play is like no other, it has the coastal basketball commentators twisting themselves into knots trying to use his uniqueness as a detraction, not realizing it’s essential to what makes him a two-time MVP.
His humility infects his entire team. He builds his teammates up, genuinely paying no heed to the individual accolades, focused instead on the group effort.
Jokic is doing things no NBA center ever has — and so is the team as a whole with its lack of egotism. Players who had an outsized perception of themselves vis a vis the team have either been let go (see Will Barton), while others, such as Michael Porter Jr., have matured and learned to understand their role in the team and the power of the group effort approach. Jamal Murray’s made-for-a-meme facial expressions are the cherry on top.
The unselfishness in the room ends up making the whole team so endearing, a remarkable feat in today’s NBA.
One can only hope that the Nuggets’ success with this team-first approach may have a broader impact on the league.
I haven’t forgiven the NBA its ills, but for this team, and for the much-needed entertainment it is currently providing, I’ve accepted that hypocrisy is a price worth paying.
Western Conference Finals, here we come.
Shana Goldberg may be reached at [email protected]
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