Denver Nuggets “End it on Home Court,” Securing 2023 NBA Championship Title


Daniel Brenner

The Denver Nuggets won the 2023 NBA Championship after beating the Miami Heat 94-89 on Monday night.

Quinn Rudnick, Junior Editor-in-Chief

The Denver Nuggets won the NBA Championship on Monday night after beating the Miami Heat 94-89 at the Ball Arena, winning the best-of-seven series in 5 games. The title is the first in the franchise’s 47-year history.

“It was an amazing effort by the team,” Nuggets center Nikola Jokić said in post-game interviews. “It was an ugly game; we couldn’t make shots. But at the end we figured out how to defend. That’s why we won the game.”

Jokić, a 28 year old from Serbia and the 41st draft pick in 2014, was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player after leading the game with 28 points and 16 rebounds. 

Many Denverites hold Jokić close to their heart, valuing not only his athletics but also his humble, laid back attitude. 

“The kind of talent that he is, a modest talent, not somebody who is searching out the spotlight, a team player, somebody who’s down to earth,” Colorado Senator Micheal Bennet said to the New York Times. “I think Denver and Colorado, we view ourselves as down to earth.”

During an emotional period after the buzzer, fans and players alike celebrated with their families and friends. Jokić’s older brother, Strahinja, who had been traveling for games all season, lifted his brother up in a hug just after the Nuggets won the game.

“After the Nuggets won, Nikola’s brother ran down to the court and was jumping up and down with joy. Then Jokic and his brother began to lift up Coach Malone, and toss him around in celebration,” Junior Leila Hollis, who attended Game 5 in person, said. “Seeing Jokic with his family, and seeing his brother experience this unreal moment with his brother, after seeing him in front of us at every game, was my favorite moment of the whole night.”

Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray also made key plays during the game, proving his value to the team after tearing his ACL and missing two seasons. Murray aided the game with 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists. He brought Denver back into the lead with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and provided crucial defense in the last 40 seconds of the game.

Seeing all the injuries through the years, like when Jamal Murray tore his ACL in 2021, it’s incredible to see his comeback and to see that he was able to play with us to win the championship,” Creek junior Bel Perez said. 

Like Murray, shooting guard Christian Braun provided much-needed defense in the final quarter. The rookie held 7 points on 3 and 1, and joined an elite club of players, becoming only the fifth player in league history to win an NCAA and NBA championship in back-to-back years.

In the hectic final minutes of the fourth quarter, point guard Bruce Brown delivered a layup off of Murray’s rebound, bringing the score to 90-89. Shortly after, shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope brought the score to 92-89 on two free throws, and Brown secured the final points of the game with free throw shots, bringing the final score to 94-89 with 14.3 seconds left in the game.

Hollis agreed that most fans were stressed about winning the championship in those last few minutes.

“I was always on the edge of my seat. In the last few minutes my heart was racing. The whole stadium was standing up, and silent, all anticipating each move. I was squeezing my towel so hard [that] it’s still crumpled, and the clock seemed like it was moving in slow motion,” Hollis said. “I had been to tight games like this before, but what was on the line made this game all the more stressful.”

For most fans, the Championship title serves as something deeply personal after waiting so long to secure it. Like many others, Perez has been a “die-hard” Nuggets fan for her whole life, and to see the team win the title felt like a dream. 

“My grandfather, dad, and brother are the big basketball fans in my house. Every regular season game, [we] would all be in the same spot, watching the Nuggets take on team after team, day after day,” Perez said. “We’ve seen this team through their ups and downs, all the good and bad shots. I’m glad that after all these years, [we] got to experience the Nuggets win the championship for the first time ever.”

This rings true for Hollis as well, as she and her dad have been fans of the Nuggets for a long time. While watching the game, Hollis found that the energy in Ball Arena unmatched, especially considering having the Championship title on the line.

“The experience of going to the game was unreal. My dad and I are huge Nuggets fans, so we go to a lot of games. But going to this game was like experiencing something completely different,” Hollis said. “Everyone is cheering as you walk into the stadium, the jumbotron is lit up in gold, and gold rally towels filled the seats. There was excitement because everyone knew this wasn’t just an average game.”

After 47 years without a Championship title, fans and players were emotional after the final buzzer. 

“My dad turned and hugged me, and I started giving high fives to everyone around me. I turned and saw my dad had started to cry, because it was more than just the win.” Hollis said. “[In] the 8 years before that, he and I had dreamed of the Nuggets winning it all. It had always been my dream [to be] at a game with confetti, and seeing the confetti rain down as the court became a sea of people was surreal.”

The win goes beyond just celebrations as well. Perez views the championship as a way for people to find inspiration, including high schoolers like herself. 

“This win can impact high schoolers [by saying] never ever give up. No matter how many bad days or how many bad years you have, never give up on something you care about or just in general,” she said. “There are better days to follow and this team is an example of that.”

Denverites continued to celebrate the championship win long after the game ended, throwing celebrations in bars, at watch parties, or on downtown streets. Just after 9 p.m., thousands of people gathered outside of the Ball Arena near the intersection of 20th and Market.

 The city will continue to celebrate on Thursday, where the Nuggets will hold a celebratory parade through downtown Denver. 

We accomplished something this franchise has never done before, but we have a lot of young, talented players in that locker room,” Nuggets head coach Micheal Malone said in post-game interviews. “And I think we just showed through 16 playoff wins what we’re capable of on the biggest stage in the world.”