By Ken Reed
After 47 years in the NBA, and another nine in the old ABA, the Denver Nuggets finally have their first pro basketball championship.
But what is more impressive than the fact they won the title is how they did it.
The Nuggets are led by Nikola Jokic, a two-time league MVP and now the NBA Finals MVP. He is quite possibly the most unselfish superstar we’ve seen in American sports in a long time. He has tamed his ego and consistently puts “we” above “me.” He is uncomfortable with media attention and could care less about his impressive stats and trophy collection. He just wants to win. Together. As a true team.
“He’s never changed with all the success, and he never will,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone after the title-clinching win.
“It’s just not in his nature. It’s great to be part of such a historically great player who’s an even better person, and I mean that sincerely. This is not coach-talk. Nikola is just a great, great man.”
But as great as Jokic is, and as unselfish as he is, he’s not alone on this Nuggets team when it comes to putting team first. Every player on this year’s squad put his ego in the background for the good of the team. Family is an overused cliche in sports but it seems to fit these guys perfectly.
The Nuggets roster, and the team-first culture, was built organically. They passed on the modern-day NBA trend of trying to put three superstars together via free agency. Instead, they drafted and developed their top three players, Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter, Jr. And then they went shopping for a few high-character guys that could fill roles around those players, guys like Aaron Gordon, Bruce Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, three guys that don’t need the spotlight. They added Christian Braun, an all-around player who won multiple championships in high school and the NCAA title at Kansas, in last year’s draft. For the bench, they signed veterans who would serve as mentors to the younger players and never whine about playing time, guys like DeAndre Jordan, Jeff Green and Ish Smith.
Malone deserves a lot of credit for building this team-first family culture, as does former general manager Tim Connelly and current general manager Calvin Booth.
But the culture’s foundation is Nikola Jokic, the best basketball player in the world, and a guy who constantly reminds everyone that basketball, at its best, is a team game, not an individual game.
Just like life, at its best.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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