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Why no one wants to play for the Nuggets, and the answer isn’t black and white.

John Reidy | July 28, 2014

The winter evenings are dark early and obviously cold, and it’s hard to drag yourself into the frigid night to go to Pepsi while it’s relatively easy to slap on a pair of jorts and head out to Coors Field in August. “

No one wants to play for the Nuggets. We all know this. If an NBA player is halfway decent and can get a bigger payday elsewhere, they high tail it out of Denver like a shabby Toyota Tercel full of legal weed. It’s a shame really. Denver is a great place to live and the fans are rabid and loyal. You can’t swing a Kenneth Faried braid without hitting 10 far less desirable places to play than Denver.

So why do NBA players shun the Mile High City?

It’s unfortunate that the discussion swings back to race because the general racial makeup of NBA players will always point to this, but I don’t think that has anything to do with it. Radio hosts will dance around the issue, but you know they wish they could claim race as the culprit. It’s easy. NBA players are overwhelmingly African American, and from places very unlike Colorado. And as the thinking goes, they want to play in either warmer or far more cosmopolitan (read: more black) locales than we offer here.

But this, is simply hogwash.

Take a look at the Denver Broncos. The team is mostly comprised of African Americans yet, not only do they want to play for the Broncos, they stay and make a life for themselves and their families. Brian Dawkins, the celebrated and certainly Hall of Fame bound safety, played his final years in Denver and stayed. Philadelphia, while maybe a bigger draw due to its location, is a shit hole. Dawkins probably took one look around at Colorado and thought, “this is where I want my family to live, not the squalor that is Philly.” The high profile black players on the Broncos seem to debunk this notion that black players don’t want to play in Denver.

The Rockies have a lot of white guys on the team, but players (hitters specifically) – if they aren’t too concerned about winning a World Series – have no problem coming to Denver if the price is right. They know their numbers will increase just by hitting in Coors Field, and if they can take a sack of money off the Monforts while here, Denver is no problem. The Rockies also play in a lovely ballpark during the summer months and when the season is done – usually in September – they can head off to warmer climates and prepare for the next season. You won’t find a black player turning down Colorado if the Monforts have shoveled some money his way, and if the Rockies were an actual good team, they’d see an uptick in black players wanting to play here.

Now the Avs, if you hadn’t noticed, are also comprised of mostly white guys. But since we all know the overwhelming majority of hockey players are white, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Still, it doesn’t really matter what color you are when you play in the NHL. You go where the action and the money is and if you can win a Stanley Cup while there, it’s a bonus. You play the sport on a sheet of ice for Pete’s sake, so I’m sure a colder climate is more desirable, but going to a winning organization takes precedence and it doesn’t matter where it’s located. Denver is a very desirable place to play as far as the NHL is concerned and it’s not an issue what race the player is.

So why do NBA players shun the Mile High City?

My guess is it’s a combination of weather and the time of year that the NBA season takes place. Unfortunately it’s a big misnomer that Denver is a cold weather climate. Compared to Chicago or Cleveland, Denver is Key West during the winter months. It’s mild and when it does snow, it’s gone in just a few days, making way for pleasant 50 degree days. But where football and baseball players can overlook the lack of nightlife in Denver because it’s mostly warm when they play, mix in the weather and the assumption that Denver is a lonely mountain town, and you get free agent NBA players staying away  in droves. Salt Lake City sadly nods her head in agreement.

It’s the same principle why people flock to Coors Field like zombies in July and the Avs can’t fill up Pepsi Center in February. The winter evenings are dark early and obviously cold, and it’s hard to drag yourself into the frigid night to go to Pepsi while it’s relatively easy to slap on a pair of jorts and head out to Coors Field in August. If the Nuggets played outside on a hot summer night, this wouldn’t even be an issue.

The same goes for the players. Since they play most of their games in Denver, they spend those admittedly dreary months when not playing, staying inside and not enjoying what Colorado has to offer. At least in New York there would be more to do in January. Los Angeles and Miami laugh at our mild Colorado winters though and accept our NBA players with open arms.

Radio hosts won’t come out and say it, but they want to tie race into why the Nuggets can’t keep players and draw quality free agents to the Mile High City. But it’s more about how the sun doesn’t shine than how African Americans see Colorado. It’s just the nature of when and where the sport is played. And that’s not going to change according to most reputable scientists I’ve read. So while the Kroenkes may have made it rain for the likes of JaVale McGee, they still don’t have enough green to make the sun shine during an NBA season.

Written by John Reidy

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