This week, the Denver Broncos play the Oakland Raiders.

Even though the rivalry isn’t what it used to be, there something in the Broncos vs. Raiders mystique that drives interest and boils the blood. There’s no doubt that when Red Miller designated that the Broncos will hate the Raiders in 1977 that it changed how the Broncos were perceived and, indeed, it was displayed in action on the field. Miller passed away Wednesday at 89, and it only serves as a reminder of how powerful the Broncos-Raiders rivalry was.

The same thing applies to Bill McCartney’s time as head coach with the Colorado Buffaloes from 1983 to 1994. The Buffs’ “rivalry” with the Nebraska Cornhuskers was — and remains — largely one-sided. That didn’t stop McCartney from turning their annual matchup against Nebraska into a designated red-letter game; stirring the passions of the faithful in Boulder and Denver. It resurrected the fortunes of the Buffs, and made Colorado vs Nebraska must-see TV for the entirety of McCartney’s tenure.

The Colorado Avalanche had the Detroit Red Wings in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. This rivalry — quite literally — drew blood in the 1996 Western Conference Finals, as the Wings’ Kris Draper can attest. There is genuine dislike from Colorado Rockies fans toward the San Francisco Giants. Who can forget the “juiced ball” allegations from a few years ago that took the rivalry to another level?

What about the Denver Nuggets?

As the team enters its 51st season, people will be hard-pressed to come up with a singular “rival” in team history. Someone to get the blood boiling and focus your angst. While many would point to the Los Angeles Lakers, I would never call that a rivalry… that’s resentment. Nuggets fans get annoyed that Lakers fans still flock to Pepsi Center even to see a bad Lakers team. They dislike how the Lakers have dominated the Nuggets in the playoffs — good Nuggets teams constantly ran into great Lakers teams in the 1980’s — but it never really amounted to a rivalry.

At one point in the mid 1990’s, one could say the Utah Jazz were the Nuggets’ rivals, as an up-and-coming Nuggets team clashed with the established, veteran Jazz; led by future Hall-of-Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone. However, that fizzled quickly when the Nuggets slipped into their worst stretch in franchise history from 1995-2003. The Oklahoma City Thunder — and Russell Westbrook in particular — made the blood boil a bit, but much like the Jazz, it fizzled pretty quickly and reached it’s nadir in the last game of the 2017 season. When the arena fills up with people who are cheering as Westbrook hits the shot that knocks your team out of the playoffs… it’s not a rivalry.

Maybe its the nature of the modern NBA; where the chummy relationships of players prevent rivalries? Maybe it is the transient nature of the league that lends itself to identifying with players over teams? The NBA is decidedly younger in its demographic than other leagues, and you don’t garner team attractions as much as you do as you get older. It has been something that has vexed the Nuggets franchise going back to 1967.

It is hard to manufacture a rivalry in the NBA without actual dislike. That sounds cliché, but it holds true. The Nuggets have never been disliked enough to be hated (outside of maybe the 2008-10 “Thuggets” era), and frankly, the team has never once fostered a rivalry between teams. It’s a bit dismaying to think about.

There is a real link to the existence of good rivalries and with fans feeling invested in the team. It shows an emotional investment that you need to bond a city with a team. It’s just not there with the Nuggets.

As the team enters into a new era, lead by the affable Nikola Jokic, one has to wonder if and when a rivalry will ever crop up for the Nuggets. It’s needed, and if the team is smart, it will foster that within the community.

So as the Nuggets get better and better, the question will be: who’s that rival?