For nearly their entire NBA history, the Denver Nuggets have been the whipping boys of the Los Angeles Lakers, as LA has beaten the men from the Mile High City in each of the teams' five previous postseason meetings.
It began in 1979, with the Lakers winning 2-1 in the then-best of three game first round series. At the tail end of the prime of his career, 10 years in, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led LA to the Western Conference Finals.
Six years later, both the Nuggets and Lakers were much improved teams.
LA featured not only Kareem and his sky hook, but also the veracious versatility of Magic Johnson, James Worthy's scoring and much more. Denver's roster had been reshaped too, as they added Calvin Natt and Fat Lever that season—the second and third leading scorers on the team in 1984-85—and Dan Issel was still contributing in his 14th year.
Under Doug Moe, those mid-80s Nuggets really ran the floor—even better than the 2011-12 version—running up the score on nearly every opponent as they averaged a league-best 120 points per game. In the postseason, they edged San Antonio 3-2 and ran through Utah 4-1 to meet up with LA in the Western Conference Finals.
But the Lakers proved to be too great, beating Denver 4-1 and going on to win the NBA Championship in '85.
Two years later, those same Showtime Lakers blanked the Nuggets 3-0 in the first round on the way to their 10th title.
The Doug Moe Era ended shortly thereafter and Denver was mostly a terrible team for the next decade.
In 2008, the Carmelo Anthony – Allen Iverson experiment Nuggets proved to have all the firepower in the regular season, only to be swept by the Kobe and Pau Gasol-led Lakers come playoff time.
And every fan remembers 2009, the year Denver seemed destined to win it all, only to be shut down by their nemesis LA, in the Western Conference Finals. Melo, Nene, Kenyon Martin and even hometown hero Chauncey Billups couldn't best Kobe and the Lakers. It led to despair in Denver.
The time for Denver to finally make their mark, and beat LA in a playoff series, is now.
These Nuggets don't rely on a superstar or stars for production, they play the quintessential team game of basketball the way it was intended to be played, together.
They led the league in assists and fast-break points for a reason—Denver understands the importance of chemistry and unselfishness that leads to easy buckets and increases their chances of winning.
These Nuggets are young—the youngest Western Conference playoff team—and they've used that youth against the older Lakers.
They not only run the floor, but players like rookie Kenneth Faried and Corey Brewer—the consummate workers—do anything and everything they can to help the team. And while Gasol and Andrew Bynum are more polished players, Faried and JaVale McGee utilize their athleticism to sky high and run circles around the LA stars.
Despite their inexperience—this is the first Game 7 any current Denver player has participated in—these Nuggets aren't intimidated by Kobe or the Lakers' mystique, nor do they shut down when the spotlight is shining.
These Nuggets are dedicated to doing whatever it takes to win—even remarkably playing hard-nosed defense—and coach Karl has them primed to pull off the massive upset tonight in Tinseltown.
The time for Nuggets to stop playing second fiddle to the Lakers has come, to better one of the best franchises in all of sports.
Now they must fulfill their destiny.
Check out these other historically significant stats in the Lakers – Nuggets playoff series.