Who, exactly, is whose daddy?

That’s the question heading into the Nuggets-Lakers series, the crown jewel of the NBA’s first-round playoff offering. It’s what everyone is asking heading into Saturday night’s opening game, the answer soon to reveal itself somewhere between Game 4 and Game 7. The defending champion Denver Nuggets taking on the king of kings (in what could become his final curtain call) and his Lakers (one of the game’s great brands that hasn’t been so great of late)?

Pass the popcorn. Sign us up.

It was an innocent enough comment, dished out by longtime television and radio personality, and current Nuggets analyst for the team-owned network Altitude, Vic Lombardi.

“He came into this world as the son of a coach, but in these playoffs, he became the Lakers daddy!” thundered Lombardi, referring to Nuggets head coach Michael Malone. Lombardi was and emceeing the Nuggets championship parade and delighting the nearly one million fans gathered in the process. No sweeter words could have been spoken in Denver that day, a day that many – including Lombardi – weren’t sure would ever arrive in the Mile High City. Nuggets fans heard it loud and clear.

So did LeBron James.

Not long after the parade in Denver, James (unprompted and via social media) responded in not-so cryptic fashion. It was clear he heard the taunt loud and clear. Later Lakers center Anthony Davis took time to respond, as well, saying he and James had “conversations” about – in essence – Lombardi’s now famous line.

Beginning with last year’s sweep of the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, and concluding with the 2023-24 regular season head-to-head matchup, the Nuggets have whipped up on James, Davis and the hated Lakers to the tune of 8-0. At least recently, the Nuggets are indisputably the Lakers’ daddy.

Then again…
The Nuggets are 79-113 (lifetime) against the Lakers in the regular season.

The Lakers hold a 25-12 advantage over Denver in head-to-head postseason matchups.

Until last season, the Nuggets had never beaten the Lakers in a playoff series.

LeBron James – like him or not – has a 15-1 record in first-round playoff series, effectively making nobody his daddy when it comes to the opening round of the postseason.

The Nuggets won their first NBA title last spring. The Lakers have 17. James has four of his own.

Nuggets star and 2023 NBA Finals MVP Nikola Jokic will soon have three NBA regular season MVPs; James has four regular season MVPs and four Finals MVPs.

James famously begged for some “damn respect.” Jokic has rarely asked for anything other than a speedy trip back to Serbia. Nuggets fans giddily goad James with chants of “Who’s your daddy?!”

The Lakers arguably have the NBA’s richest history, indisputably shoot morel free throws than their opponents and have a star-driven story that is (somewhat disputably) more compelling than the cow-town Nuggets.

Even Lombardi – author of the very term that’s soon to define the series at hand – recently said on his radio show: “I don’t want the Lakers near my team.”

Why not? His Nuggets have owned the Lakers of late.

Will Denver’s dominance continue? Surely, James – and whatever forces every Nuggets fan can surely and somewhat fairly dream up – will try their best to redefine the rivalry (or lack thereof, according to L.A. fans).

Who’s whose daddy?

In essence, that’s all this series is about.

For one team, daddy issues will soon be resolved.