It was late Monday night into Tuesday morning, just as I went to bed — as visions of Joker’s otherworldly passes were still dancing in my head — when I finally figured out what I would write about the Denver Nuggets and their first championship season since the beginning of time.

It would start with something about winning being good. Really good. It sets all the right hormones winging through your body, the kind leaving you with a smile that won’t go away. Did anyone not see Jamal Murray smiling through his tears? Did anyone not see the Jokić brothers in their mountainous group hug?

I’d have to mention that the thrill of winning a sports championship affords one of the last refuges — maybe the last — in which to escape the toxic hyperpartisanship and divided loyalties of our day. It’s quite the gift. It’s almost as if a mass celebration of a title run — a title that somehow allows everyone in town to claim a piece — could briefly remind us what community means.

I wouldn’t write about hardship. I mean, spare me the paeans to hard-working athletes overcoming adversity. That’s just life, isn’t it, for everyone else? Or about long-suffering fans. If you’re a real fan — and I’m not knocking the bandwagoners; everyone is welcome to this party — you know that suffering is part of the deal. 

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But I would obviously write about the genius of Nikola Jokić, who we’ve been lucky enough to witness — at least those who aren’t stuck with Comcast — night after night for the past eight years. Whatever is written, whatever is said, it can’t be too much. In leading the Nuggets to their first title, Jokić went from mere superstar to legend, from a certain Hall of Famer to a full-fledged member of the basketball pantheon. And in the process, he seemed to be the only person unimpressed by it all. I don’t know exactly where he ranks among the game’s greatest centers. I’ll leave that to the talk radio guys to argue. It’s enough to say there has never been anyone like him. 

And I would have to include coach Michael Malone’s postgame declaration that the Nuggets wouldn’t settle for a single championship. The question we keep hearing is not whether the Nuggets can repeat next year but whether they’ll become the latest NBA dynasty. It’s heady talk for a team that never won a title in the old ABA days and had gone 47 years without winning one in the NBA. But, why not a dynasty? These days, winning two or three titles is enough to qualify.

What I was all set to write about was magic and belief and the possibility of a rare moment in which everything else seems to recede from view. Certainly, the Nuggets’ title run was magical. It’s the kind of magic that, for a day anyway, allows a poor political columnist to ignore the news from a distant city that a certain former president is being arraigned on charges that include an entirely different brand of magical thinking — the toxic kind. 

I would stress that we should savor this special moment because we all know that these moments are fleeting. Life always intervenes.

But before I could write any of that, life did intervene. By the time I sat down to write, I had already seen the headlines about the mass shooting during the downtown celebration, where uncounted thousands had gathered.

Ten were injured, including a suspect. Three were injured critically. Denver police said their preliminary investigation indicates that several people were involved in an altercation and that a number of shots were fired. Yes, life intervened horribly.

No one can be surprised when such celebrations turn ugly. You can blame too much exuberance mixed with too much alcohol. You may recall back in the last millennium when the Broncos won their first Super Bowl. Cars were overturned. Store windows smashed. Dumpsters set afire. Cops in riot gear. Tear gas fired. Twenty arrested.

And no one can be surprised today when gunfire is added to the list. The shooting near 20th and Market was the 291st mass shooting — meaning one in which four or more people have been injured — this year in America, according to the Gun Violence Archive. 

It was the seventh mass shooting so far this year in Colorado.

The shooting will be mostly forgotten soon enough by most people not directly involved. We could not have the level of gun violence we do in America were it not for short memories and short attention spans. Without that, we’d have to actually do something about the issue. 

Meanwhile, the Nuggets will have their victory parade and then a giant rally Thursday. I hope many of the old Nuggets show, the ones who didn’t get to win a championship. It will be a joyous event, with many smiles and not a few tears.

But I wonder if anyone there will mention the shootings. I’d like to think so, but you could argue, I guess, that maybe it wouldn’t be the right time. Of course, as far as I can tell, it never is.

Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow. Sign up for Mike’s newsletter.

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