It's impossible to know if he was motivated by sincerity, self-interest or an undeniable urge to expand his social life at high altitude, but when embattled L.A. Laker Kobe Bryant was asked in mid-February what teams he might consider signing with should he exercise his options next year as a free agent, the name "Denver Nuggets" immediately sprang to his lips. Really. Truly. Wonder if Stan Kroenke would throw in a furnished condo west of Vail and the phone numbers of some unattached chambermaids?
The drama of the Denver Nuggets' sudden rise from the doldrums of incompetence to the heights of playoff contention features rookie sensation Carmelo Anthony as its leading man. After just one glory year at Syracuse (the underdog Orangemen won the NCAA championship), the 6' 8", 220-pound small forward opted for the pros. Now, not only are the hapless Nuggets delighted with their number-three draft pick, but they're counting on him to revivify a franchise that has long been a bad joke. With twenty-something points per game and six-plus rebounds, Anthony compares favorably with the NBA's other star rookie, Cleveland guard LeBron James, and the debate about which team got the better prospect is likely to rage for years. For now, though, light and hope have returned to Nuggetville, and Melo is the smiling, gifted nineteen-year-old who made much of it happen. If that's not sweet enough for you, he's also added his own candy bar, the Melo, to the local scene.
The drama of the Denver Nuggets' sudden rise from the doldrums of incompetence to the heights of playoff contention features rookie sensation Carmelo Anthony as its leading man. After just one glory year at Syracuse (the underdog Orangemen won the NCAA championship), the 6' 8", 220-pound small forward opted for the pros. Now, not only are the hapless Nuggets delighted with their number-three draft pick, but they're counting on him to revivify a franchise that has long been a bad joke. With twenty-something points per game and six-plus rebounds, Anthony compares favorably with the NBA's other star rookie, Cleveland guard LeBron James, and the debate about which team got the better prospect is likely to rage for years. For now, though, light and hope have returned to Nuggetville, and Melo is the smiling, gifted nineteen-year-old who made much of it happen. If that's not sweet enough for you, he's also added his own candy bar, the Melo, to the local scene.
Even last year, when the Denver Nuggets were still an awful mess and the departed Juwan Howard was their only scoring threat, NBA sharpies noticed that coach Jeff Bzdelik was bringing some fierce new attitude and commitment to one of the league's worst teams. This season, the former Miami assistant not only has players with real game -- rookie Carmelo Anthony, a healthy Marcus Camby, a renewed Andre Miller and inspirational leader Earl Boykins, among others -- but he's gotten them to buy into a system built on relentless speed and dogged hard work. Anthony may be the team's future, but the guy they call Buzz is its vivid present. If the Nugs don't make the playoffs this year, it will be a big disappointment, but the mood on Chopper Circle is buoyant, thanks to a head coach with an unshakable belief that all things are possible -- especially when you're wearing a new color scheme of baby blue and Melo Yellow.
Even last year, when the Denver Nuggets were still an awful mess and the departed Juwan Howard was their only scoring threat, NBA sharpies noticed that coach Jeff Bzdelik was bringing some fierce new attitude and commitment to one of the league's worst teams. This season, the former Miami assistant not only has players with real game -- rookie Carmelo Anthony, a healthy Marcus Camby, a renewed Andre Miller and inspirational leader Earl Boykins, among others -- but he's gotten them to buy into a system built on relentless speed and dogged hard work. Anthony may be the team's future, but the guy they call Buzz is its vivid present. If the Nugs don't make the playoffs this year, it will be a big disappointment, but the mood on Chopper Circle is buoyant, thanks to a head coach with an unshakable belief that all things are possible -- especially when you're wearing a new color scheme of baby blue and Melo Yellow.


Call it the House That Hanzlik Built. Ex-Nugget Bill Hanzlik, who co-founded the Gold Crown Foundation in 1986, is justly proud of the Gold Crown Fieldhouse, which opened last fall in Lakewood. Most weekends, its six gyms runneth over with Gold Crown youth basketball teams. The courts are also available to those hardcourt-starved squads that don't have anywhere to practice, thanks to shortsighted budget-cutting by school boards. Fat kids? Not here.
Call it the House That Hanzlik Built. Ex-Nugget Bill Hanzlik, who co-founded the Gold Crown Foundation in 1986, is justly proud of the Gold Crown Fieldhouse, which opened last fall in Lakewood. Most weekends, its six gyms runneth over with Gold Crown youth basketball teams. The courts are also available to those hardcourt-starved squads that don't have anywhere to practice, thanks to shortsighted budget-cutting by school boards. Fat kids? Not here.


When the Police Athletic League sixth-grade championship series was played recently at the Hiawatha Davis rec center, the Colorado Hawks were guaranteed a winner. That's because the two finalists were the Hawks' fifth- and sixth-grade teams. Since George Williams started the Denver-based nonprofit in 1997, the traveling youth hoopsters -- whose players range in age from ten to seventeen -- have set the standard for local competition. Organizers say that five of the top ten scorers in this year's 5A boys' category are affiliated with the club, and the teams' reputation extends well beyond state lines. Now, if only the Hawks (which stands for "Hard At Work Kids") had their own gym . . .
When the Police Athletic League sixth-grade championship series was played recently at the Hiawatha Davis rec center, the Colorado Hawks were guaranteed a winner. That's because the two finalists were the Hawks' fifth- and sixth-grade teams. Since George Williams started the Denver-based nonprofit in 1997, the traveling youth hoopsters -- whose players range in age from ten to seventeen -- have set the standard for local competition. Organizers say that five of the top ten scorers in this year's 5A boys' category are affiliated with the club, and the teams' reputation extends well beyond state lines. Now, if only the Hawks (which stands for "Hard At Work Kids") had their own gym . . .


Best Athletic Performance -- High School

Kyle Sand

It's pretty difficult to improve on perfection, so Arvada West senior wrestler Kyle Sand earns this year's designation as best high school jock. All the shaggy-headed Sand did is finish his wrestling career without once losing a match: 125-0, with four state titles, the last one at 189 pounds. Anyone who knows anything about wrestling -- where a momentary lapse in concentration or effort can land you on your back -- will attest to what an astonishing feat Sand has accomplished. In fact, when Sand bested his final opponent at the state championships last month, he became the first Colorado schoolboy ever -- and the 35th in the country -- to finish undefeated with four titles.

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