DENVER (AP) — Stan Kroenke's sports empire has produced an NFL, NHL and now NBA champion in three consecutive seasons.
His latest title came Monday night when the Denver Nuggets won their first championship 47 years after joining the NBA. His Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in the Super Bowl following the 2021 season, and his Colorado Avalanche hoisted the Stanley Cup last summer after dispatching Tampa Bay in six games.
Through the champagne spray and cigar smoke choking the Nuggets' locker room following their rugged 94-89 win over Miami in Game 5, Kroenke reflected on his football, hockey and basketball titles and couldn't pick one over the other.
“It’s like having children: You love them all," Kroenke said. "It’s unbelievably exciting. I’m just so happy for everybody involved, particularly the city, which for 47 years they never had this.”
The Nuggets were a founding franchise in the old ABA and played for that league's championship in 1976, falling in six games to Julius Erving's New York Nets. Later that year, the NBA absorbed those teams along with the San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers, both of whom made the finals long before Denver did.
The Nuggets didn't play for another league title until this year, and their clincher came 55 years, seven months and 28 days after the team won its first game in franchise history over the Anaheim Amigos.
Even with the great duo of NBA Finals MVP Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, the top-seeded Nuggets didn't have an easy time dispatching the No. 8 seed Heat.
“It was a dogfight,” Kroenke said in a rare interview, which seem mostly to come in locker room celebrations of late. "I mean, that's how they play. They are tough. That's a great organization. Great coach. Pat Riley's amazing, his influence on basketball and number of championships. just how clever they are with everything.
“But that was a dogfight, and for our guys to go out there and persevere and win that thing, that was awesome.”
His Rams didn't get past the Bengals easily in the Super Bowl and his Avalanche got all they could handle from the Lightning last year.
“No, and I always say if you want to win a championship,” Kroenke said, “you've got to go get it. Nobody's going to make it available to you. And the guys over there are really good.”
Kroenke's hope is that this is just the start of a long Nuggets run and that, unlike the Rams and Avalanche, they can defend their title in 2024.
“We've got a great group,” Kroenke said.