Welcome back, my friends
To the show that never ends
We’re so glad you could attend
Come inside! Come inside!

There behind a glass
Stands a real blade of grass
Be careful as you pass
Move along! Move along!

Come inside, the show’s about to start
Guaranteed to blow your head apart
Rest assured you’ll get your money’s worth
The greatest show in Heaven, Hell, or Earth
– Emerson, Lake, and Palmer

I can still remember the last goal of the game. I’m not sure I had ever yelled that hard before that. The United States beat the Soviet Union 4-3 for the 1980 Olympic Hockey gold medal, and I screamed and there was do I believe in miracles, and…

Not much of it had actually happened.

According to my mom, I’d wandered in and out of the room a ton for the game, only coming back in to catch replays when I’d hear the adults hollering. The game was actually not the gold medal game at all, but the stunning David-beats-Goliath game that got the Americans into the gold medal contest. By the time they won that last one, apparently I was actually sitting in church. Come to think of it, I do remember a few unbidden cheers breaking out in the congregation one Sunday. Mom says I may have even been asleep by the time Al Michaels delivered his still-famous line in the Russia game. None of that is like I remember it at all.

In my memory, we all celebrated the gold medal victory well after the game, possibly with some of my favorite snacks. And maybe a friend visiting from out of state. The more I think about this, the more I’m pretty sure my brain made it all up. Possibly just a dream. My own sports Mandela effect. It’s not the only time it’s hit me. I’m still sure there was a cornucopia in the Fruit of the Loom logo, and it was definitely the Bernstein Bears (not even close to right) when I read the books growing up.

While those types of false memories are prevalent across myriad topics, none are more popular a false memory than recalling being around for a moment in time or history that loomed large in your culture. You’ve seen it. You have friends who “were definitely at” something you are pretty sure they weren’t. I wish I had a nickel for every friend of mine who was:

  • At Coors Field for Eric Young’s first home game opening home run (It was Mile High Stadium, by the way)
  • At Big Mac the night the woeful Nuggets beat the 72-10 Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls (they weren’t)
  • At Mile High to see “The Drive” (it was in Cleveland)
  • Etc, etc

It makes sense, wanting to have been a part of seeing something historic. Someone historic. People who were never Broncos fans made time to go out of their way to see John Elway play, the same way the well-attended Nuggets game described above was actually mostly stuffed with Bulls fans and those curious folk who simply wanted to see MJ live, not the Nuggets faithful who often claim to have been in attendance. People still go out of their way to pony up and pay the price when something rare is crossing by their universe. If you doubt me, just try to get tickets for the Elton John show that is suddenly flashing its way through town next week. The Rocket Man has already filled Ball Arena for this final tour, and yet the number of people who will eventually claim to have seen his very last jaunt will soon far outnumber the seats available.

We all want to see the show. To have been one of the rare few in the know.

Which is why you need to grab your non-basketball loving friends, and still get them to take a trip to Ball and see one of the rarest shows on earth, a 213 centimeter, 129 kilogram specimen of basketball madness that is Nikola Jokic, the unassuming, understated, two-time reigning MVP of the greatest basketball league on the planet.

While basketball may not be everybody’s cup of tea, the Joker is a decided sea change in how the game has been played for years, and is shifting the nature of the game around him. He’s a Picasso in the middle of the Monet exhibit, changing the perspective of his position and competition. While nearly every player who comes through the league is unique in some way, Jokic is decidedly one of one when it boils down to looking for a player comp.

I spent a fun evening taking in an early season Nuggets game with a few friends of mine dropping by who all professed to not be basketball fans. I told them they were welcome to come and go from the game as they pleased, and left other opportunities in the house for them to avail themselves of when they got bored. They had all volunteered to be good sports and watch at least a little of this “amazing basketball player” I am constantly prattling on about.

While a good time was had by all, I didn’t necessarily swing the entire crowd in my direction. Out of six of the people who had come to watch, only five have now agreed to attend game with me in person sometime… But I figure that’s a pretty good rate at which the Joker converted a few new possible acolytes.

Amongst the comments:

  • How did he see that guy to pass to him?
  • Everyone just looks like they are having so much fun with him
  • It doesn’t seem like he could have that many points
  • He seems to be moving slower than everyone else, and yet still beats everyone

I know, I know. These are not exactly the comments of an in-depth examiner of the state of basketball, the Denver Nuggets, or even scratching the surface of the magic that Jokic brings to the court. But even the non-hoops-heads I got to hang out with knew they were watching something special. There’s a lot more just like them, blind to being in the presence of true greatness, and believe me, there’s a lot of folks outside your world who are unaware of just how good he truly is. Unaware that they are able to go and witness an utter rarity, a unicorn in the wilderness of his sport. In a state that most folks with cable still can’t see this amazing team and player, there’s a ton of Nuggets neophytes still out there.

Someday, somewhere down the road, when Jokic has gone back to Sombor for good to raise horses and reconsider his position on Coca-Cola, we’ll all be wistful for what is gone. Mournful, even. We’ll look back so fondly on what we lost and reminisce. Probably even remember a few things in ways that were even glossier than what we truly saw. But before the entire state of Colorado eventually decides that they were his biggest and only true fans, let’s make sure and get this one-of-a-kind rarity out in front of the masses who are still very late to the game.

If you’re a DNVR fan, but still certain that basketball isn’t your thing, give at least one game of Jokic a try. You might stick around. Even if you don’t, somewhere down the road you’ll be able to say you went out of your way, and saw one of the best and most unique talents to have ever played. A historic guy doing historic things.

You gotta see the show. It’s a dynamo.


Mike Olson is a weekly columnist for DNVR. The Colorado State University alum was born and raised in Fort Collins and has been writing about Denver sports for the last decade-plus. After over a decade away, he is thrilled to be back in and around Colorado. No place like home.