We Can Stop Playing the NBA and NHL Playoffs Now

Sports NBA Playoffs
We Can Stop Playing the NBA and NHL Playoffs Now

I have struggled to write this sports obituary all week for two beloved teams I got to see die painful deaths live and in-person.

I knew I had to write about the end of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche seasons for Splinter sports, especially after my shit-talking Laker columns in the first-round. I first tried to do it in the emotion of the weekend, thinking that would carry me through to some kind of cogent point through all this pain. I drove home from Game 7, got Colorado sober, and sat down to write a draft of my feelings.

Spoiler alert: they were pretty incoherent. I’m still having trouble processing what I witnessed this past weekend and honestly, I don’t think I ever will. Local media personality Vic Lombardi called it the worst weekend in Colorado sports history, and I paid to see all of it!

On Friday night, I watched the Colorado Avalanche play a perfect defensive game, save for one moment that pushed a win or go home Game 6 to overtime, where they wound up losing in double overtime to the Dallas Stars at the hands of hated former Av Matt Duchene. That famous Jon Bois tweet is great, but it hits a lot different when you’re actually in the arena snorting cocaine and jumping out of a helicopter on a motorcycle. My teeth are still chattering.

But the Avalanche were dead in the water after losing their star winger Valeri Nichushkin to addiction for the second year in a row in the playoffs, and their listless performance in Game 4 basically gave away the series. Friday night’s obituary had already been written, I just got to see the Stars officially put them in the ground in a game that just so happened to become ripe for the stealing.

The Nuggets on Sunday though? That was supposed to be the fun one. I also went to Game 5 to witness official athlete of Splinter Nikola Jokic play one of the most perfect basketball games ever after accepting his third MVP award. In Game 6, the Nuggets couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean, and I just chalked that blowout in Minnesota up to the NBA being a make or miss league, and assumed the vibes from Game 5 would carry over to Game 7.

Instead, I experienced the sports fan equivalent of having your small intestine pulled out through your fingertips over the course of 24 excruciating minutes that will haunt me for the rest of my days. Frankly, I think it’s rude that the NBA and NHL are continuing to play these playoffs while I am still in mourning.

The Denver Nuggets ended this beautiful and poetic tale they have been authoring over the course of the last year by choking away a 20 point second-half lead. I can feel a part of my soul dying just typing that sentence. Every passing lane that Jokic tried to find was clogged with an array of seven-plus foot wingspans from this terrifying team of pterodactyls known as the Minnesota Timberwolves, and I sat horrified in the third-deck, shrinking into my seat and watching through my fingers as their lead slipped away.

At least they lost to a worthy adversary with an historic defense and also a baby Michael Jordan clone in Anthony Edwards who is now on a fast-track to be the new face of the NBA. This hurts, but it’s not like they blew it to some shitty undeserving team like the Lakers or something.

Winning Is Hard

One thing that’s crystal clear watching the Nuggets brick shot after shot across games 6 and 7 is they ran out of gas trying to defend their championship. I’m reminded of this quote from Denver Broncos offensive lineman Mark Schlereth about winning back-to-back Super Bowl titles:

“I remember after Super Bowl 32, staying up all night at the party goofin’ around. I remember going to the party at Super Bowl 33 afterwards, having something to eat and then going up to my room and going to bed. Exhausted. Absolutely exhausted. That was the difference. Defending the crown versus chasing the crown. It’s a task. It’s a monumental task.”

It’s hard to win, man. Of all the things us sports fans take for granted, that pill might be the toughest one for us to swallow. Championship windows slam shut far quicker than many expect, as it just takes one twisted knee to change the course of history.

You can ask the Colorado Avalanche about that, who are still reeling from the effects of winning the Stanley Cup in 2022. They have been missing captain Gabriel Landeskog ever since, who played through the same knee injury currently sidelining Lonzo Ball after sustaining it in the 2020 bubble. Landeskog joked at a press conference today that his target return is sometime between September and April.


This looked like a budding dynasty spearheaded by two of the NHL’s five best players in Nathan Mackinnon and Cale Makar, and three of the best ten to twenty depending on how mad Mikko Rantanen is on any given day, all complemented by hulking two-way forwards who can score and make people’s lives hell in Landeskog and Nichushkin. Now, after injuries, fatigue and free agency took its toll, the Avs are left with a familiar problem: a top-heavy, thin squad who needs to play between the faceoff dots to win hockey games and avoid a lot of the physical battles in the corners that define the playoffs.

You never know when your team is going to break through, or break down.

Which is why I racked up all this credit card debt in pursuit of sports fandom glory. I’ve been on a heater with the Nuggets where I watched them win a championship last year, then raise the banner this year, then I traveled to Boston in January to watch them end the Celtics’ longest home winning streak in history. I then saw Jamal Murray rip the Lakers’ hearts out twice at the buzzer in Games 2 and 5, then my next trip to the holy land was to celebrate our MV3 and watch him achieve basketball nirvana. I had to go to Game 7, I had no choice.

Some may look at that paragraph and call me privileged, and I certainly am to have attended all those games I will never forget, but that would downplay the misery of my entire fucking life as a Nuggets fan. We earned this golden era and I’m not going to miss it for the world. Credit card debt isn’t real if you don’t think about it.

I will be on my deathbed, and being in the crowd for the Denver Nuggets winning their first championship will be a heart-warming and beautiful moment that flashes in front of my eyes and makes me think of all the loved ones I shared it with…subsequently followed by watching the Nuggets choke away their chance to defend it as I quickly rush to embrace the less-painful option of certain death. To be honest I kind of hate basketball and hockey, I couldn’t watch any of those games last night. We can stop playing the playoffs now.

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