Good riddance to masks. Let’s all show off our smiles!

Do you want a sure-fire smile? Enjoy Sen. Cory Booker’s exuberant celebration of soon-to-be Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. She brilliantly endured ridiculous Republican insinuations as she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, displaying her intellect and awesome smile. So did KBJ’s beaming daughter, Leila Jackson, age 17. This Jackson family brightens our nation’s capital. 

Colorado’s capital city is suddenly blessed to welcome Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson. We’ve never seen better smiles from a Denver Broncos’ head coach and quarterback. Even the Hackett and Wilson family photos are extraordinary. Were these characters cast in Hollywood? Our Broncos’ storied narrative continues — and grows.

Craig Silverman

But March is not football season. It’s the most wonderful time of the year for basketball fans. Hard-fought state high school championships have been won. NCAA March Madness has delivered again. If St. Peters reaching the Elite Eight doesn’t make you smile, consult a doctor.

Sensational basketball can emerge almost anywhere. Superstars are sprinkled like diamonds around the globe. Denver’s smiling (should-be repeat) MVP hails from Sombor, Serbia. At seven-feet-tall, Nikola Jokic has always stood out. But sensational hoopsters come in different sizes.

Basketball prodigy Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. Young Nah’Shon was undersized, but he could handle the ball while zigzagging fast through bigger players. His long arms helped.

As a lad, Nah’Shon’s hoopster running mate was a girl called Chicken. She appreciated Nah’Shon’s swift decisive moves, and nick-named him Busy. Nah’shon liked her name for him and put his twist on the spelling. Other friends called him Bones because he was so skinny. Sensing an opportunity, Nah’Shon told people to call him BizzyBones, or Bones for short.

Bones Hyland perceived early-on he’d be an elite basketball player. He considers himself unstoppable, an essential attribute in a game built on swagger and one-on-one success. Size was Bones’ obstacle, but obstacles can be overcome. With speed. With strategy. With deception. With a shooting range that goes back toward half-court

Bones’ shot is a classic. A one-hand push shot, with the left hand lightly touching for stabilization. Bones’ right elbow and shoulder are aligned directly at the hoop. Hold the finish. Boom! Buckets from almost anywhere

With perfect shooting technique achieved, scoring comes down to instant physics calculations, and finding space to let shots fly. The right arc, the right spin, the right aim, and it is in. But that’s just the beginning for fast-thinking Bones.

When Bones makes shots in clusters, he smiles like a kid on Christmas morning. His ear-to-ear grin forces you to smile back. It is not just three-pointers (he’s already broken Jamal Murray’s Nuggets rookie record), Bones can slash to the basket. He can finish at the hoop. And he can definitely dish out dimes (assists)

Bones is a natural showman. Last week, in consecutive nationally televised games, Bones went wild. First off the bench now, Bones has been recently shooting over 50% from behind the arc. And he does it from ridiculously long distances. 

When opposing teams call time-out to stop the Bones’ momentum, Bones turns cheerleader, imploring the home crowd by playfully putting his finger to his ear. Denver’s Ball Center crowd erupts.

Despite his skinny frame, Bones shows his grit with hard finishes at the rim, afterwards flexing for the Nuggets’ faithful. Basketball players have their faces and bodies on full display. We see the emotions. And the tattoos. Two tattoos on Bones’ left shoulder memorialize and honor his two guardian angels. Their names were Fay Hyland and Maurice Williams. 

On the last Sunday of March four years ago, 17-year-old Bones was in his Wilmington bedroom watching Duke play Kansas in the Elite Eight. He smelled smoke, then he saw it. When he opened his door, flames forced his retreat. 

Bones tried to get stuck old windows to open, but they were closed tight. He prayed with all his might. Miraculously, and with time running out, Bones forced a window open and looked down. 

People below told Bones he needed to dive out. His skinny frame made it through. Heroic neighbors caught the top half of Bones’ body, but his right knee slammed into brick stairs, ripping his patellar tendon.

Also ripped apart was the teenager’s heart, broken by the fire-caused death of his grandmother, “Mom Mom,” Fay, age 59, and infant MJ, another of Fay’s grandsons. Bones considered little Maurice J. Williams Jr. to be his little brother. 

Basketball was put on hold for healing and grieving. Bones rededicated himself to hoop, and excelled at Virginia Commonwealth University for two seasons. But he was made for basketball’s biggest stage. That is the NBA. 

With injured super-talents Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Junior still recuperating, the Nuggets have overachieved behind their MVP Jokic, and the emergence of Bones. For maximum smiles, Jamal and MPJ could return fresh for the playoffs to catapult Denver to unprecedented heights. 

While we fantasize about NBA championships, let’s smile broadly with the knowledge that effervescent and inspirational Bones Hyland really is a Denver Nugget. 

Craig Silverman is a former Denver chief deputy DA who also has worked in the media for decades. Craig is columnist at large for The Colorado Sun. He practices law at the Denver law firm of Springer & Steinberg, P.C. and is host of The Craig Silverman Show podcast.

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Special to The Colorado Sun Email: Twitter: @craigscolorado