Sunday night I watched as the Phoenix Suns of the National Basketball Association finished a sweep of the Denver Nuggets of the National Basketball Association in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. I feel that this ending was only right. Not only because the Phoenix Suns are a superior team to the Denver Nuggets (or at least this version of the Nuggets, sans-Jamal Murray), which their play clearly showed them to be, but also because I cannot, for the life of me, consider the Denver Nuggets winning an NBA championship. I simply cannot put two and two together there. I cannot formulate it in my brain. I cannot imagine a shirt that reads “DENVER NUGGETS NBA FINALS CHAMPIONS.”
Their name is the Denver Nuggets. Their name is the Denver Nuggets. The team’s named “The Nuggets.” They named the team “Nuggets.” How do you win a championship when your team is named “The Nuggets”? They’d have to print t-shirts, and banners, and do a parade. Grown men and women would cry tears of joy over “The Nuggets.” People would have sex and conceive a child like in those “Super Bowl Babies” ads from a few years back and the kid would grow up and say “I was conceived because my parents were so excited about ‘The Nuggets’ that they had sex. I was a Nuggets Baby.” and there would be “Nuggets Babies” born all over the Denver metropolitan area the following spring. Can you imagine Nuggets Babies?
The Nuggets are fascinating to me because it strikes me that the word “nugget” has changed in popular meaning since this name came into being. The current Nuggets were named that out of homage to the briefly-lived Denver Nuggets that played during the newly-formed NBA from 1948-1950. So we have to go back to 1948 to make sense of the “Nuggets” name. At the time, this would refer to gold nuggets, obviously. At that time, we were barely even a century out from the gold rush that brought so many to Denver in the first place. In fact, the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL, named for basically the same historical event, were founded and given that name merely two years prior in 1946. I think one of the biggest problems here is that gold, just as a concept, has really fallen from its perch in the American public consciousness in the past seventy years.
Who cares about obtaining Gold anymore, outside of an Olympics or maybe an X Games setting? The last person I can remember really saying “I want the gold” that wasn’t a gymnast or Travis Pastrana was that woman in the Mobile Leprechaun video. Even the people who were worried about the dollar dropping in value that advertised about buying gold on Fox News like fifteen years ago have moved on to caring about Bitcoins now. Prospectors really fell off, too. I was in Denver only maybe two years ago and I didn’t see even a single prospector when I was there. I have to assume the gold prospecting industry in Denver has just completely dropped off of the map, like how Kansas City used to be known as a meat packing city and now we’re known for… uh… pickup trucks, I think. I checked on Indeed and there were only thirteen Gold Mining jobs hiring in Dever at time of writing. Anyway, the word “Nugget” must have changed in popular connotation between 1948 and now.
As of right now, June 2021, I think that I would rank the current popular uses of the word “nugget” as such:
The Chicken Nugget, as a concept, developed during the 1950s, in between the lifespans of the two Nuggets franchises, and the most popular version of the Chicken Nugget, the Chicken McNugget from McDonald’s restaurants, would come into being during the late 1970s, a little under a decade after the establishment of the second, current Denver Nuggets franchise.
In an ironic twist, I do associate the industry of the Denver metropolitan area with a type of nugget, that being the famous herb we all know and love, the “sticky icky,” “that good good,” the “Devil’s Lettuce,” the infamous “Jazz Cigarette,” the 420 special, Ol’ Delta-9, “That Loud”, “The Bud,” “That Which is Stuck in your Pipe and Smoked,” “Da Good Shit,” “The Dank,” “A Doobie,” “Cannabis,” “The Gateway Drug,” “Hash,” “Marijuana,” “Black Tar Heroin,” “Kush,” “The Reefer,” “Et Cetera.” That’s right folks. I’m talking about Marijuana. Which is legal for recreational use for those age 21 and older in Colorado and has been since 2012. This has been a boon for Colorado’s economy. How wonderful, how delightful it must have been for those people in Denver to come home after a Saturday afternoon basketball game and say “It was greeting watching the Nuggets, now it’s time to smoke some Nuggets of our own!” I assume at least one person must’ve said that. I apologize if that sounds unrealistic, I haven’t partaken in that particular countercultural phenomenon in a good while.
Also, poop. Like from a turtle. I’ve heard people call that specific sort of small poop “nuggets” before.
To be clear, I don’t dislike the Nuggets name. I just cannot fathom a team named “The Nuggets” winning a championship. Maybe next year they’ll prove me wrong, they’ll get Jamal Murray back and maybe make another signing, or watch as Michael Porter Jr. develops into a star, and they’ll have a championship run and all the stuff I joked about earlier, like the adults crying and the Nuggets Babies will happen, and people can point back at this and laugh rightfully like they do the way that ESPN showed a Taco Bell ad as Nikola Jokic was drafted.
But I appreciate that they carry on with their name “The Nuggets”. I am a fan of a league whose teams routinely strip themselves of any identity. As much as I also could never imagine Montrealers crying and having sex over the name “Impact”, I preferred that name to the generic one they started using this year. As interesting of an image as it will be for a guy to be crying about how happy they are that “The Nuggets” won the championship, I will appreciate seeing it.