A few days ago I received an e-mail from an acquaintance asking me if I’d like to accept his tickets to the Denver Nuggets annual Sixth-Man Jam event. Surprised, but happily willing to jump at the opportunity, I accepted and boy am I glad I did.
For those not familiar with the Sixth-Man Jam event — much like I before tonight — it’s basically a chance for season ticket holders to meet the Denver Nuggets face-to-face for a couple hours while getting autographs and pictures along the way. In addition to the meet-and-greet, fans are treated to ice cream, drinks, snacks and of course the lure of purchasing overpriced drinks at the bar. You’d think the event would be held at the Pepsi Center, but the Nuggets PR Department thought this one out. Instead, the Jam took place at the Downtown Aquarium where by using mesmerizing marine tactics, flaky pseudo-Nuggets employees were able to divert a large number of the highest paying fans away from actually meeting their favorite players and in turn forced stupid queries like , “Does anybody have any questions regarding the Albacore bone structure?”
As one guy behind me put it, “Why would I have questions about Albacore? I’m here to see Afflalo.”
Still, the fish were a bonus to true Nuggets fans like me, who pushed our way through the throng of endless bystanders just so we could get a moment with our favorite athletes. And of course, overhearing every other person next to me flaunt their most favorite story about how Ty and them are like this (crosses fingers) was entertainment overload when added to the fish-fry. (From what I hear, Ty likes to find himself at Shotgun Willies from time to time, so in case anybody missed the Sixth-Man Jam tonight and still wants to meet him, you better hustle on over to the self-proclaimed “best strip club in Denver.”)
When I finally made it through the Tunnel-O-Fish, there, right before my very eyes sat Kenyon Martin and Wilson Chandler. It was almost surreal seeing such athletically gifted structures mingling with the rest of the common man. Even though they were both sitting on stools, there was just something uniquely awe-inspiring about them that makes you stop and stare like a kid gazing into a candy shop window.
After collecting myself I wandered over when it was my turn for a photograph and just said, “Hey guys!” as I smiled nervously sandwiched between them. I then turned to Wilson, patted him on the back and said “Stick around man.”
Stick around? Stick around??? What the hell does that mean? That’s the best I can do? I get one chance to say what I could spend hours upon hours dissecting/analyzing and all that plops out of my mouth is “Stick around.” Needless to say, Chandler looked at me as if he had no clue what I was talking about.
So, being that I completely and entirely botched my first attempt at penetrating some of the Nuggets player’s minds with once-in-a-lifetime quotes that quite possibly could affect the outcome of whether or not they re-sign in Denver, it was on to the next target: Al Harrington.
To nobody’s surprise Big Al was strategically seated directly next to the ice cream station along with Gary Forbes. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, the same guy who not too long ago was seen in the background of an interview chowing down on a hamburger just hours before a game was now in the midst of 1,000 cups of ice cream, rainbow sprinkles, chocolate fudge and caramel. And like always Big Al had a big smile on his face the entire time.
It just so happened that prior to my run-in with Al and Forbes, two young girls, more giddy than the front-row adolescent audience at a Justin Bieber concert, distracted the Nuggets duo just enough for me to notch not one word. Al joked with them about how young they were, and Forbes was occupied with one of the girls who looked as if she was going to pass out at any moment, so when I tried to step in they were still laughing about some of the things said beforehand. No big deal though, as both guys happily signed my Allen Iverson jersey and continued on with the rest of the mob.
By this time, I was starting to gear up for my most anticipated encounter of the evening: The Meeting of the MOZ! Yes, this was finally the moment where I’d get to stand next to a legitimate 7-foot human being and ask all the questions that could ever come along with meeting such a giant! Yet, due to time restrictions I only got one in, but boy was it good.
Right next to MOZ and Gallo was a sting-ray tank where the line just-so-happened to conveniently run by, and where guests were encouraged to feed the family members of the Steve Irwin’s murderer until they got the chance to meet the new Nuggets. After a long wait I finally approached Gallo and MOZ asking for autographs where upon they exchanged friendly and polite conversation with me whilst signing my merchandise. I told Gallo he played awesome in Portland and wished him a speedy recovery to which he seemed truly grateful for. I then turned to MOZ, and as he stood there, taller than I ever could have imagined with a blank stare on his face I said, “Hey MOZ! You ever seen a sting-ray before?” He looked at me like I was speaking a different language (What a surprise!) and after Gallo laughed and whispered something in his ear he came back with perhaps the most epic counter-statement of all-time: “Of course. I’m from Russia.”
I simply could not hold back my laughter after anticipating the entire night what I’d ask MOZ and what he’d offer in return. I felt a sense of strong gratification, like no better question was asked all night.
The evening eventually wound down, and as 8:00 p.m. approached the players began to leave. I ran into the final minutes of JR and Birdman’s signings and I must say, those guys are just as energetic in real life as they are on the floor. Both were laughing and joking far more than any other players I’d met, and the audience interaction was static with excitement. All different types of people, no matter what color, height, age, gender, etc. put on a smile whenever they met the Bird and JR and the Nuggets fan-favorites did the same in return. When they finally got up and left there was an uproar like no other, yet fans understood they had to leave and began yelling “BIRDMAN!!!” and “SWISH!!!” from all corners of the room. One guy even collected his family and began to chase after the two as they left, only to be stifled by security before they could fully attach themselves to the players.
As I was walking towards the doors, one final chapter of the night revealed itself to me to my pleasant surprise. Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri was walking my direction and nobody seemed to even know. Of course I began nothing short of a full-out sprint towards the man and when I finally reached him could only hold out my hand proudly, waiting for him to shake it. Masai obliged as I told him how awesome of a job he did with the trade. He was very polite and thanked me before swiftly being escorted out by some of his assistants.
Happy as could be, I walked out the tall glass doors with a giant smile on my face, all while high-fiving random strangers on the simple basis that we were both Nuggets fans. I then ran into a guy who’d been asking around for a ticket before the event since he left his at home. He was taking pictures with his baby boy who was outfitted in Nuggets apparel. I asked if he had as good of a time as I did, but no words were needed in his reply as his smile spoke for him.
What a time to be a Nuggets fan, what a time.