Note: This story appears in the June issue of Mile High Sports Magazine. Story by Doug Ottewill, interview by Alexis Perry.

The trouble with a printed product, especially in the age of lightning-fast digital media, is…

… that

… it’s

… sooooo

… damn

… slowwwww.

Odds are, by the time you read this, Denver Nuggets guard Bruce Brown will be one of two things:

An NBA Champion.

Or, golfing.

If you’re a bettor, as most sports fans are these days, an even wiser wager might be the parlay – as in Bruce Brown could be both.

The morning before Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals, just hours before they would go onto to pummel the Suns, the Denver Nuggets had the best Las Vegas odds to win an NBA Championship. Those odds improved even more on May
22, after the Nuggets swept the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. In their history, the Nuggets have never been the favorite to win it all this late in the playoffs. A big reason the odds are now in their favor? Bruce Brown, a name that few Nuggets fans even knew as recently as nine months ago.

And why would they?

Brown spent the first four years of his NBA career in the Eastern Conference, playing first for the basement-dwelling Pistons and then in the shadows of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden while in Brooklyn. He started sporadically and never averaged more than 9 points per game in a season. In retrospect, it seems as if neither the Pistons nor Nets knew what they had in Brown or how to use him. In seven career games against the Nuggets, he only scored points in four of them, so there’s a decent chance you didn’t notice him even if you watched. If you just so happened to catch the Nuggets-Pistons game back on Feb. 2, 2020, you might recall Brown’s 19-point performance, one that helped the 13th-place Pistons get an unlikely win over Denver. Then again, most everything that happened during that season was lost when the world shut down a month after what was arguably the best game of Brown’s career up to that point.

Somewhere along the line somebody in Denver noticed him. General manager Calvin Booth, head coach Michael Malone, a scout, a player, somebody.

And thank goodness they did. Brown was inked by Denver last summer to a two-year deal that came in at roughly $6.5 million per year, an investment that’s paid monstrous dividends ever since. During the regular season, Brown averaged 11.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists while playing 28.5 minutes per game. Those aren’t necessarily eye-popping numbers, but considering the fact his name held a spot on the same roster as two-time MVP Nikola Jokić, budding superstar Jamal Murray, the high-flying Aaron Gordon and the potentially exponentially talented Michael Porter Jr., Brown somehow managed to get noticed – and even, stand out. Perhaps more than anything, over the course of the season, Brown proved to be a tenacious and versatile defender, a perimeter stopper the likes Denver hasn’t seen since Dahntay Jones.

In short, Brown quickly became a player that Malone could trust, and once the playoffs began, the coach’s faith in his dogged defensive guard was on full display.

But Brown played (or is still playing) more than just defense. Against the Timberwolves in the first round, he scored 14 points in Games 1 and 5, both wins. He only failed to reach double digits in Game 2, which the Nuggets still won. More importantly, he was often handed the unenviable assignment of checking All-Star guard Anthony Edwards.

Against the Suns in Round 2, Brown was given a similar assignment in guarding Devin Booker. At times, he was even put on his former teammate Durant – giving up 6 inches and 40 pounds, but never an easy path to the basket. With the series tied at two games apiece, Brown poured in 25 points on the Suns in Game 5. In Game 6, Booker finally cried uncle, scoring just 12 points after a steady barrage of harassment from Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals was a sign of things to come, as Brown was vital against the Lakers, too. In that game he was one of six Nuggets in double digits, posting a handy 16 points, two of which came on a Ball-(Arena, that is)-shattering dunk. Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell, who often drew the job of trying to stop Brown, was hardly successful. After the game, Brown said of Russell: “He’s not the best defender, but he definitely tries.” The Nuggets, of course, went on to sweep the Lakers. Meanwhile, Russell was held to just 8.3 points per game and stopped absolutely no one on defense; Brown had clearly gotten inside his head.

At the time of press, Brown and the Nuggets were anxiously awaiting their first trip to the NBA Finals.

The only caveat to the brilliant acquisition of Brown is that he’s got a player option he must exercise following the playoffs. We’ll get to that later, but for now, just enjoy the fact that Bruce Brown was a Nugget for what has indisputably been the greatest season in franchise history.

Enjoy, too, the fact that five days before the NBA Playoffs are set to begin for the Nuggets, and about three hours before a mandatory team function back at Ball Arena, Brown is playing…


With us.

At Fossil Trace Golf Club in Golden.

And playing pretty damn well, we might add.


(Randy Parietti)

Before anyone tees it up on the glorious first tee at Fossil Trace, however, the aforementioned – somewhat bizarre – scenario must be put into proper context. Many current or former athletes and coaches have kindly agreed to play golf with someone at Mile High Sports for purposes of a story.

Many more have declined.

Perhaps it’s us. But more likely, it’s an answer that surfaces somewhat consistently: “Now is not a good time. Playing golf right now is not a good look.”

We’d never name names – or teams – but the consensus upon receiving an invitation to go golfing, is that if a pro athlete is in the midst of a season, or more serious yet, the playoffs, fooling around on the golf course isn’t exactly what fans want to see or organizations want to openly display. Furthermore, if a team or player has just been bounced from the playoffs, or didn’t even earn an invite to the postseason, going golfing is an even worse look. Fans, and perhaps even pro sports teams, prefer the idea that their favorite athletes hit the gym after wins and mope (and hit the gym) after losses. Paid athletes must focus only on games, on performing well, on film study. If they’re winning, it’s because they’re so dialed in they don’t have time for nonsensical hobbies like golf. If they’re losing, they should be resigned to righting the wrongs of their performance – not of their backswing, short game or lag putting. Athletes are only allowed to have fun once a title is won. They certainly cannot do normal, enjoyable, human activities until that time.

For the record, we do not subscribe to this line of thinking.

And neither does Bruce Brown, who did not decline our invitation. And if he would have, it would have only been because he’d already booked a tee time elsewhere.

If he’s not hooping, he’s playing golf. Anytime. All the time. And he’s not sorry about it.

“I think other people have other things they do, and golf is my safe haven – especially during the playoffs,” Brown says. “If it’s nice, I will play literally every day. Even if I’m at practice, I’ll schedule it. If, say, that practice is done by 12, I’ll schedule a tee time for 1:30.”

Oh, worrisome Nuggets fans, fear not. Concern yourself little of Brown’s ability to summon an uncommon amount of energy during an NBA game even after he’s played 36 holes that week. That’s precisely what he’s done for the Nuggets all season long. One look at his calves and you understand that Brown’s percentage of body fat hovers somewhere near an eagle scored on a par 4. Brown can do this all day.

“Golf is exactly how Bruce Brown locks in,” says Alexis Perry, who has drawn the assignment of playing with him on this perfect April day.

As someone who also views golf as therapeutic, Perry understands. She’ll be sharing Brown’s cart, going swing for swing and barb for barb. Shit talking is something they both do very well, so the pairing should work.

Golf, like it is for everyone, is humbling. Standing on the free throw line in front of a screaming, sold out crowd, to hit a pair of game-winning free throws with just a few seconds left on the clock? That’s nothing for Brown. Hitting a 10-foot putt to win a golf match? Now that’s pressure.

“The 10-foot putt for sure is more difficult,” Brown tells Perry. “It’s funny, because if I’m hitting off the tee and I’m by myself, I’ll hit it perfectly fine. But when once people watch, I probably chunk a few.”

It’s okay. That’s not where his bread is buttered. Like any professional athlete, though, he’s a competitor. Safe haven or not, golf isn’t just therapy between basketball games. It’s a quest, a mission to be good at yet another athletic endeavor. Just watch his swing path, or his touch around the greens, and it’s obvious that all the tools are there; an athlete is an athlete.

“I’ll three-putt, like the usual amateur golfer,” he says. “But that’s definitely a work in progress. I think I need to work on that – mostly it’s putting.”

Perry pries a bit more, hoping that Brown will help to better define his golf game, although it’s impressively unfolding before her eyes. For having only taken up the game three years ago, Brown is exceptionally good at the Scots’ Great and Frustrating Game. He’s not about to brag on his golf game.

“What kind of clubs are you playing?” asks Perry.

“I have TaylorMade P790s,” hesays. “They’re an inch extra in length. And I have a Ping driver.”

A good golf shot, much like a good jumper, is the product of repetition and, ultimately, trust. There are times when Brown’s golf game hasn’t quite caught up to his hoops game.

“If I’m 150 out with my pitching wedge, almost 100 percent of the time I will be on,” he says, but is quick to clarify that he’s not bragging – just differentiating. “If I’m 100 yards out, I’m in trouble. I don’t know what I’m going to hit at 100 yards. It could be a 60 one day; it could be a 56 the next day. Don’t know.”

He plays a fade with his driver. “But that takes distance off, which I don’t like,” he says. His second-best club is his 4-hybrid, which consistently goes about 230 yards.

Brown is a “big TPC guy,” as the membership works well for him. Lately, he plays TPC Colorado most often, but the TPC model works well for a professional athlete who travels the country and regularly has downtime on the road. The outing at Fossil Trace is supposed to be about golf – not basketball – but someone on staff innocently asks if he has a preference as to who the No. 1 seeded Nuggets will draw in the opening round of the playoffs. Remember, this is all taking place five days from the Nuggets postseason opener; the 7-10 mini tournament has yet to even take place.

His answer is both honest and funny. From a basketball standpoint, he couldn’t care less – or at least he’s not about to tell us.

“I guess I’d say New Orleans,” he says. “I love playing TPC Louisiana.”

A golf outing in the in the bayou wasn’t in the cards, however, as the Nuggets drew the Timberwolves instead.

If one didn’t know who Bruce Brown is already – and several golfers who pass by do and are eager to wish him luck in the playoffs – it might not be readily apparent that he’s a professional basketball player. His conversation with Perry rarely goes back to his day job.

The self-proclaimed “Masshole” is a huge fan of Boston sports. Growing up there, he follows the Patriots, Red Sox and Bruins closely. He’s puzzled by how the Red Sox are so bad at the moment. Can’t wait to see how the best team hockey has ever assembled – the Bruins – will storm through the playoffs (Sorry, Bruce, but if we’d have only known
how poorly this one would have aged…). Knows for a fact that Tom Brady is the GOAT. He notes all of this practically unprompted.

And then Perry dives into some of his “other” interests, many of which have slowly become the stuff of legend in Denver.

In the most basic of terms, Brown is just a good ol’ country boy.

It’s irony on top of irony, really. He plays the most urban of sports at the highest level. And he’s spent his entire life in the biggest big cities – Boston, Miami, Detroit, New York. Denver’s old moniker – a “cow town” – now holds true for Brown by comparison.

How in the name of Garth Brooks is Bruce Brown on the fast track to becoming a bona fide, Stetson-wearing, boot-scootin’, how-they-do-it-out-west cowboy…y’all?

“I can just be myself here,” he says. “I think in those other big cities I would probably be looked at a little funny for wearing a cowboy hat and dressing up as I do. Here, it was just like super fitting for me – loving country music, loving the whole vibe.”

If he must point back to where it all began, like a lot of stories do, it started with a girl.

“One of my first girlfriends really liked country,” Brown says. “So, you know…” He also was an excellent high school baseball player. Even along the eastern seaboard, country music is often the choice of a baseball locker room. A good handful of walkup songs at Rockies games feel just about right to Brown.

Then he went to Nashville.

“I went to Nashville for CMA Fest the year before COVID,” he explains. “Saw Luke Combs live, seeing how everyone dressed and how everyone acted; I was like, ‘I’m hooked.’”

Fun Fact: Bruce Brown has an endorsement deal with Stetson, and receives free goodies from Carhartt, but does not have an NBA shoe deal.

In other words, Nike isn’t sending him their kicks for kicks. Aside from a few pair of Kyries given to him by Kyrie himself back in Brooklyn, Brown buys his hoops shoes just like any shoehead or rec center superstar.

“I have a few Stetson hats. I did a deal with them to get a few hats and take a few pictures. I have a photoshoot coming out soon,” he says.

In January, he attended the National Western Stock Show with Altitude’s Katy Winge. It’s an entertaining piece that anyone can watch on YouTube. He picked up a new hat, got some ideas and asked a lot of questions. He was hooked even more. During the offseason, he’d like to ride a horse, learn to lasso and possibly even brand some calves, just like he’s seen on Yellowstone.

That will all have to wait though.


(Randy Parietti)

First, he’s got to finish up this round of golf and hustle back to the arena. He could gawk at this creative, Colorado-postcard, Jim Engh-designed golf course all day if he had more time, but of all people, Bruce Brown does not want to be late for work.

And then right after that – five days to be exact – he’ll be asked to keep tabs on some of the best guards in the NBA, hopefully until the very last day of the 2022-23 NBA season. June has always been for golfing, but this year, the mission has shifted to becoming an NBA champion. For Brown, it’s win now, golf later.

The only sad part of this story is that there’s a decent chance this could be Brown’s last season in Denver. Despite the fact that he signed a two-year deal, Brown has a player option once the season concludes. The good and bad news is that he’s played so well with the Nuggets, he’s worth exponentially more than the $6.8 million he’d be paid as outlined in his current contract.

“Based on how he’s playing, teams would be insane not to give him a bigger contract than he has here in Denver,” says
Mile High Sports Nuggets beat writer Ryan Blackburn. “Denver legally can’t offer him more than a 40 percent raise, but other teams could double his salary.

“Unless he makes a decision that’s clearly not (financially) best for him, there’s not much Denver can do.”

Time will tell, but whether he was playing golf any chance he could, making life hard on the likes of Devin Booker, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell, or trying to scoop up some tickets to the Chris Stapleton concert in Denver, Brown will be making some significant bank deposits next season. In NBA lexicon, he got a bag. In cowboy terms, he’ll be riding off into the sunset with all the loot. In golf speak, he can afford to play any track in the country, as many times as he’d like.

Placing the flagpole back in the cup on Fossil Trace’s No. 18 – a golf hole that never fails to offer a not-so-subtle suggestion to come back soon – nobody in this foursome knows exactly how this story will end.

But, if by chance you find yourself at a victory parade sometime in June – the first of its kind in Denver – keep an eye out for a tall fella in a cowboy hat. He was a big part of it.