Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
Dolph Grundman, a Metro State history professor, became interested in a lost chapter of Denver's sporting history while doing research for a class. He discovered that for a few decades, Denver was a center of the basketball universe, hosting the annual AAU men's basketball championship on the stage of the Auditorium Theatre. And while the game was light-years away from today's run-and-gun NBA, Grundman found that the corporate-sponsored teams -- including the Denver Piggly Wigglys -- helped pave the way for today's hoopsters. Heck, there was even a squad called the Nuggets. The era lives again in Grundman's tome The Golden Age of Amateur Basketball: The AAU Tournament, 1921-1968.
She doesn't own a nearby liquor store, which is a major plus. But Ceal Barry, who bowed out this year as basketball coach of the Lady Buffs, does hold a winning record that would be hard for any other candidate for CU's next athletic director to beat. Through two-plus decades in Boulder, she's kept her eye on the ball. That means she knows her student athletes are students, first and foremost, and deserve to experience all the best that a CU education can bring (which is plenty -- not that you'd know it from the headlines these days). And if those student-athletes win some important titles along the way, so much the better. Barry recognizes that at CU, it's not whether you win or lose, but how the game is played -- with honor and integrity and honesty. Which makes us wonder: Why waste her on the AD job? There's that presidency open, too.
Vodka rocks? Hooker in the hotel room? Little weed? Hey, while they're at it, why don't the mooks in the University of Colorado athletic department lay something really special on their football recruits: A pep talk from Professor Ward "Sacred Buffalo" Churchill. Instead of explaining X's and O's (or even court orders to appear before the grand jury), Coach Churchill could stress the value of crisp downfield blocking against the U.S. Justice Department and the importance of listening to everything quarterback Osama bin Laden says in the CU huddle. Go, Buffs! Beat Eichmann State!
In the pre-George Karl era, there was nothing much for Nuggets fans to get excited about. Except one thing: Nesting Doll giveaway nights. The sheer absurdity of the promotion was irresistible, compelling crowds to stream into the Pepsi Center despite the potential loss. On December 26, early fans scored Nene nesting dolls. They weren't disappointed with the three Nenes stacked inside each other, and the true believers came back in droves for Andre, Kenyon and Marcus. By the time Melo -- the last in the five-part series -- was offered, the Nugs appeared to be back, lending a luster to those five grinning dolls.
If he were, say, a member of another species, the Denver Nuggets' agile, sharpshooting mascot, Rocky the Mountain Lion, could probably solve the team's outside scoring problem. For fifteen years, he's been draining it from half-court -- backwards -- and he's not bad slam-dunking off a trampoline, either. With his floppy red sneakers and a rakish bolt of lightning for a tail, this perennial crowd favorite remains the league's most popular mascot -- as evidenced by the love players and fans showered on him at this year's NBA All-Star Game.
The future of the new-look Nuggets may be Carmelo Anthony, but the soul of the team's tough, take-no-prisoners attitude is multi-millionaire forward Kenyon Martin. The 6'9", 234-pound K-Mart came to Denver last summer from the New Jersey Nets with four years of NBA experience, 51 playoff games and a reputation for tireless, bruising play on his resumé -- in other words, everything GM Kiki Vandeweghe and coach George Karl could ask for as the Nuggets fight for a post-season berth again this year. Martin is Denver's second-leading scorer and rebounder, and the embodiment of the team's newfound grit.
Many NFL players dismiss kickers as undersized freaks who rarely take a bone-jarring hit. But where would the Denver Broncos be without steady, unflappable Jason Elam? The twelfth-year pro out of the University of Hawaii ranks fourteenth on the all-time NFL scoring list, and 2004 marked his twelfth consecutive 100-point season -- the longest such streak in league history. Last year, the three-time Pro Bowler connected on 29 of 34 field-goal attempts (with a long of 52 yards) and now stands third in Broncos history in regular-season games played (188). One last thing: Elam's two Super Bowl rings remind current teammates of the Broncos' late-'90s glory days.