I was born in Indiana, where basketball is more of a religion than a sport. So when we moved to Colorado in the early 90s, I was crushed. Colorado? Where it’s cold for nine months of the year and all they care about are the Broncos and skiing. How was I supposed to chase my dream of being in the NBA? (Turns out an undersized guy that didn’t have great grades, couldn’t play defense and never saw a shot he didn’t like took care of that “dream” on his own.)

Upon arrival in “The Colorful Colorado,” I was proven to be correct. This state is full of football fans and skiers. Which, at the time, I was neither. I was lost. I lost what I thought made me who I was — pretty profound for a 10-year-old, right? However, things would quickly turn around for a young hoop head that was new to the Mile High City.

The first of which was a Starter jacket that not only made me fit in with the kids at school, but gave me an allegiance to a local team. That jacket was black and gold with a Buff on the back and the “S” with a star above it. I was fresh to death, at least I felt like it. That coat, as stupid as it may sound, opened up a lot of doors for a kid just looking to fit in. It showed the other kids that I was a sports fan, and more importantly, it got me an opportunity to play basketball at lunch with the kids that had already established the crew.

For the first time since moving away, I was proud to be from Indiana, I could play! Not only could I play, but I was one of the better players. That day changed everything. I made friends, I got to play everyday and my love for the game of hoops was rekindled in a new state where I thought it would be lost.

Insert the Denver Nuggets.

If I’m being honest, the Denver Nuggets had never come across my radar. I was a Pacer fan, still am. I was a Hoosier, STILL AM. There was just something about the Nuggets, those uniforms, the style of play; it was something I could not get enough of.

Then, in the 1994 NBA playoffs, the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets beat the No. 1-seeded Seattle Supersonics in the first round! We should all remember the iconic photo of Dikembe laying on the floor grasping the ball in celebration. I just got goose bumps simply typing it. He put the Denver Nuggets back on the basketball map. For that, I will be forever grateful.

No, Denver did not win a title that year or the year after. In fact, Mutombo would leave for greener pastures after the 95-96 season, seeking a long-term contract. How long? 10 years! Nuggets general manager Bernie Bickerstaff later said not re-signing him was the biggest mistake he made as the team’s GM. Agree 100 percent, Bernie!

Although the basketball time was short lived for Dikembe in Denver, his impact will be forever felt in the 5280! Saturday night, his number will go up in the rafters and Nuggets fans will forever be allowed and encouraged to share the story of the great Dikembe Mutombo and that 1994 Nuggets team that shocked the NBA world.

Thank you, Mr. Mutombo. Thank you for loving the game throughout your career the same way I love the game!