We always wondered how an NBA Finals would feel in Denver. 

We are finding out. It’s emotional, intense and expensive!

My father loved basketball. Dad played at West, and then coached hoops at Denver’s post-World War II JCC. Sheldon Silverman bought a great, sturdy backboard for our southeast Denver driveway. Our court was long, flat enough and smooth. 

It was perfect for practice, and games of one-on-one, or even two-on-two. My Mom, serving treats between games, made it extra-popular.

There’s a new Allstate Mayhem ad depicting the kind of brotherly brawls Bill and I waged daily. My Dad occasionally officiated and broke up skirmishes. When I finally grew taller than Bill, I could win and outrun him. Most of the time. 

But then along came a neighbor I could not beat. Hyman Goldburg moved in across the street. Hyman was 13 months older than me, but two grade levels ahead at school, making him a grade behind my brother Bill at GW. Hyman was smart, funny and athletic. We became fast friends.

This New York whiz kid, sporting his naturally red Jewfro, and moves like Earl Monroe, kept kicking my butt on my own concrete. I couldn’t comprehend how Coach Vaughn cut Hyman in the 10th grade. Hyman could hoop! Future all-state guard, Joe Strain and Hyman might have been unstoppable.

The Denver Rockets debuted when I was a sixth-grader. Before games, they’d let autograph-seeking kids down to the floor. My pal Freddy Freis persuaded Lonnie Wright, who was stretching on the floor, to roll us an ABA basketball. We told Lonnie his legs looked like sequoias. He liked that.

Next season, I got Rick Barry to autograph the back of my Hill Junior High bus card on its signature line. It was that magical year we acquired Spencer Haywood and realized basketball could be played at the highest level in Denver.

Haywood told me about that special rookie MVP season, and how he was blindsided by the racist Ringsbys, Denver’s franchise owners. Haywood recounted his Game Seven playoff fight with Rick Barry, and how Lonnie Wright (also a Denver Bronco) ended that melee.

Haywood is loving Denver hoops again. Our Nuggets have never been more popular. Keep the Joker happy and that “D” in Denver may stand for “dynasty.” Wasn’t that TV show, Dynasty, set here?

Game Two announcer Mike Breen claimed Joker is a combination of Kevin McHale and Larry Bird. Breen omitted their Celtics’ teammate Bill Walton, the magnificent passing center. 


Before he got hurt, Walton was dominant like Haywood, winning league MVP. Walton further led Portland to the NBA title. Walton’s Trailblazers immediately destroyed our Denver home court advantage on the way to that 1977 championship. My father took me to that heartbreaking, one-point Game One loss during my glorious years playing basketball at Colorado College.

When Walton, who I met and interviewed in 2017, came back on my show this week, it was a classic big man mismatch. Walton swatted away my suggestion our Nuggets would breeze by the Miami Heat without breaking a sweat. The Big Redhead predicted the series would be tough. Guess who knows more about NBA basketball?

Regardless, Walton, who was busy dominating at UCLA, never witnessed the greatest clutch shooting display ever seen at any Denver pro basketball game. It was the dawn of the 1970s, a game at the Denver Coliseum against arch-nemesis Oakland Oaks.

In the first quarter, two qualifying tickets were selected for participation in a shooting contest at halftime. The competition began with participants each shooting five free throws. The winner next attempted the ABA’s innovative three-point shot for a big gift certificate. If that shot was made, a half-court basket would receive a new Camaro for a year from Spedding Chevrolet.

One ticket selected that night was for the seat occupied by Bruce Paul, the Ringsby’s prominent attorney. Declining participation, Mr. Paul turned to his law partner, Roger Goldburg, who turned to his son Hyman, who strode on the floor at halftime.

The 15-year-old redhead with the wild four-inch hair made all five free throws. We watched as Hyman confidently swished the three-pointer and then nailed the half-court shot. When it went in, my neighbor raised his hands like Rocky Balboa. The Denver Coliseum went delirious.

The dealership refused to give the Camaro to Hyman because he lacked even a learners permit. Almost as fast as they’d arrived, the Goldburgs moved and we lost touch. For over 50 years.

Goldburg and I spoke at length last Saturday night. He lives in Phoenix now but still roots for Denver. He remains smart and funny. Hy made me laugh hard as he described the Larry Brown-like blue velvet bell bottoms he wore that night he hit those seven shots in a row.

The Denver Nuggets bring people together. Special things can happen at Denver pro basketball games. I wish my father, big brother Bill and Freddy were all here to enjoy this excitement.

If necessary,Game 7 of the NBA Finals will be in Denver. On Fathers Day. Let’s go Nuggets!

Craig Silverman is a former Denver chief deputy DA. Craig is columnist at large for The Colorado Sun and an active Colorado trial lawyer with Craig Silverman Law, LLC. He also hosts The Craig Silverman Show podcast.

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