So the national media has finally caught on.

Sort of.

After all of Michael Malone’s questioning, highlighting, griping – or as many have called it, whining – about how nobody in the national media knew or cared to discuss the greatness that is Nikola Jokić, it seems that those same talking heads, wordsmith’s and so-called experts have finally begun to take notice. It’s like a college student who ditched class for the better part of the semester, but is suddenly spouting off notes just minutes before the final. Now, even the likes of Kendrick Perkins are climbing aboard the Nikola Jokić Bandwagon.

Who. Cares. Climb aboard, one and all.

The “narrative” should not be the narrative. What’s said is worth so much less than what is done. And the Nuggets, discussed or not, have stormed into the NBA Finals. For those who are reading this great story by starting at the final chapter, there’s a lot that’s been missed. It’s okay. No great author is really all that angry at those who didn’t read the first edition. It’s cool to be in the club that did, but anyone can enjoy the classics at any time.

If someone isn’t talking about Jokić by now, they’ll look exceptionally out of touch. But the Nuggets are so much more. In fact, for those of you playing catch up, the Nuggets are here because of so much more than Jokić. Obviously, he’s the top reason, but recall just a year ago, when Jokic without this supporting cast wasn’t able to advance past the first round. Most everyone knows that Jamal Murray was out with injury, but even beyond his presence this season, the Nuggets are a band of unsung heroes.

For a little extra credit, here’s the short and incomplete list of some of the folks who have meant the most.

Let’s start with Michael Malone himself. Whether you like his message (or, as mentioned, whining) or not, one thing’s for sure – Malone has put all the distraction on himself. Say what you will about the surly son of a coach, he’s pushed all the right buttons in the playoffs, and perhaps even long before that. From his insistence with former Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly to not trade Murray, to his decision to load manage his roster to a near-infurating level down the regular season stretch, Malone suddenly looks like a hoops savant. You don’t have to like him – as many don’t, apparently – but it’s impossible to ignore his efforts along the way to the franchise’s first-ever trip to the NBA Finals.

Speaking of trades, the Nuggets would not be the Nuggets – or at least the iteration that looks capable of winning it all – without Calvin Booth, the team’s general manager. Booth, unlike his predecessor Connelly, has quietly – almost anonymously – given the Nuggets exactly what they need this season. If addition by subtraction is a thing in the NBA, one of his best moves of the offseason was unloading veteran guard Will Barton. That’s not a knock on Barton – okay, well it kind of is – but he needed to go. Booth also said goodbye to Monte Morris, a solid backup point guard and fan favorite. In their place, the Nuggets added Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown, the next unsung heroes.

Together, Caldwell-Pope and Brown mended the biggest hole in the Nuggets defense – guarding the perimeter. It didn’t hurt that both are extremely capable shooters, too. In Caldwell-Pope, Booth got the added bonus of a veteran who knew how to win; he’s the only player on the Nuggets roster with a championship ring. In Brown, Booth sprinkled some spice into his roster. Brown is the first Nugget since Dahntay Jones to truly getting under the skin of the opposition – something every contender needs. Jones was a subtle ingredient on the 2008-09 Nuggets, a team that advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals, where he wasn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe (or face to face) with Kobe Bryant. Brown gives the Nuggets a similar – but even better – edge.

One shouldn’t forget about Aaron Gordon, either. Calling Gordon “unsung” is potentially misleading. After all, at $21 million per year, Gordon is paid almost like a superstar. In fact, because of the notoriety he earned early in his NBA career with Orlando – as one of the game’s most incredible dunkers – it could be argued that Gordon is one of the most well-known Nuggets. But for Denver, he mostly “blends in” – at least statistically. But his points or high-flying dunks are not why he’s so important to the Nuggets. He’s easily the team’s best defensive player, an athlete who can quite literally guard positions 1-through-5, and does regularly throughout the course of a game. When the Nuggets face the Heat, smart money will bet that Gordon is the man tasked with making Jimmy Butler’s life a living hell. Gordon is so big, strong, long and fast, that even Butler, who’s unquestionably a great player, will be challenged.

Even DeAndre Jordan, who’s logged exactly 10 minutes and 29 seconds this postseason – all against the Timberwolves – is more important that most might think to the Nuggets postseason run. Jordan might not play another second, but what he brings to the Nuggets bench cannot easily be replaced. He’s essentially a coach in uniform, a voice that’s respected and heard throughout every game. His name will likely rarely be mentioned when tales of the 2022-23 Nuggets are told, but without a doubt, he’s unsung.

And that’s just the shortlist, call it a Cliffs Notes version of some “other” Denver Nuggets storylines. Jokić and Murray might be the main characters, but understanding how the Nuggets are here requires knowing the unsung.