The Hatch family from Northglenn never misses a Denver Nuggets game, if they can help it. They’ve been dedicated fans since moving to Colorado in 2011 and when the team won its first NBA championship this week, they knew they’d be at the parade on Thursday.
“We never really expected to actually win the championship, but we were hopeful for one,” Ariel Hatch said. “It’s amazing!”
The family of five was among the estimated 700,000-to-one million fans to descend downtown on June 15 to bask in the glory of the Nuggets NBA title that was more than 50 years in the making.
There, they had the chance to see Finals MVP Nikola Jokic, who famously said he wanted to go home to Serbia following the title-clinching victory on June 12.
Instead, he was in a white Denver fire truck with No. 15 in gold letters and his name, the missing Finals MVP trophy nearby. When he finally found his way through the crowd to a podium, the crowd erupted.
“You know that I told you I didn’t want to stay for parade,” Jokic addressed the crowd. “But I [expletive] want to stay for parade. This is the best. We love you, Denver. This is for you.”
He was one of many Nuggets players at the parade. Also, there was Head Coach Mike Malone, staffers, cheerleaders and Rocky the mascot – showered with love, beer, and cheers from the masses as they passed on a procession of fire trucks.
David Zuckerman brought his two kids down from the Boulder area to see the spectacle. He said he is thrilled Denver can officially be called “Champion City” after seeing both the Avalanche hockey team and Nuggets win titles in back-to-back years.
He said the Nuggets are more than a Denver team. They’re a Colorado team.
“It’s exciting for everyone to be moving in the same direction for something positive, especially considering the Avalanche won last year (also),” Zuckerman said.
Taylor Wright has lived in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood for eight years after moving from Kentucky.
Though he’s watched lots of great basketball from the Nuggets and has become a self-proclaimed diehard fan, he wasn’t sure if they could really win a championship until recently.
“After the performance in the NBA bubble in 2020, it seemed more realistic,” he said. “It’s unreal to witness a franchise winning its first championship, though.”
Ashley Guss of Adams County said her family has been strong Nuggets fans since the J.R. Smith days, and to see a championship come to fruition is surreal.
Festivities began with a pre-rally at Civic Center Park at 9 a.m., followed by the parade at 10 a.m. that traveled from Union Station to Civic Center Park.
During the parade, players and coaches signed merchandise. They even hopped off the floats to interact with the crowd. Several players and coaches addressed the massive congregation at Civic Center Park.
“Life’s about moments,” Coach Malone said. “We have people that have been supporting this team for 47 years … We’re some greedy [expletive], baby. We’re getting another one. It’s hitting me right now. For me, to share it with our fans, that means the world to me. This is an amazing experience. Something that I believed in. I had no doubt that we’d get to this point.”
Fans from all the corners of Colorado came. They hailed from Fort Collins in the north to Pueblo in the south to Grand Junction in the west. They might as well rename the team the Colorado Nuggets.