How Two Young Knicks Fans, And Their Family, Became Nuggets Fans
This is a basketball story. A love and basketball story.
This is a story about falling in love. About finding a soulmate when it’s least expected.
It begins on Feb. 10, in Madison Square Garden. Where else, but the Mecca of basketball? This is where two eight-year old boys from a New York Knicks tradition-rich family, Jonas and Adin Goldschneider of Bergen County, N.J., first met and fell in love with… the Nuggets?
Basketball is a web that runs through generations of the Goldschneider family. The father, Evan, attended Michigan as an undergrad and was part of scrimmages against the fabled Fab Five. During his graduate studies at Georgetown he played pick-up ball against Hoyas players. As a fan, Evan had eyes for the Knicks ever since being exposed to them when he was a kid. He’s lived and died with each season ever since. And that was not unlike his wife, Jackie, a basketball-first woman that held the Knicks as the No. 1 team in her heart.
Jackie discussed all of this on a March night in Charlotte, N.C., at the Spectrum Center. The two boys – of four kids total – were out on the court rebounding basketballs. She held up her iPhone, documenting every second as she talked. Evan sat nearby.
“I just always loved basketball,” she said.
“I’ve always loved the Knicks.”
She then turned and nodded in the direction of her husband: “He’s always loved the Knicks.”
The entire family would. Their first two sons, twins Jonas and Aiden, born in 2008, grew up in a basketball household. Getting the two to love the sport took little effort. Jonas and Adin gravitated right to it. They had a basketball in their hands right away. They were Knicks fans in the blink of an eye. Eventually, they even started playing organized basketball.
“We started getting into basketball when we were like 4-years old maybe,” Jonas said. “And then we started practicing.”
Adin chimed in: “And we got really good.”
Jackie and Evan helped that love grow. Games were always on in the house. The family also made semi-regular trips to Madison Square Garden for Knicks games.
“We go to about 10 per year,” Jackie said. “We don’t always sit up close.”
But on Feb. 10, they did.
The story goes like this: Jackie has a friend whose husband is a ticket broker. He keeps his eye out for weekend games where the tickets are at more reasonable prices than others. One day on his screen, the Knicks game against the Nuggets popped up. The seats were together. The price was right. The opponent wasn’t a concern.
It was the latest chance for the Goldschneiders to get in some live Knicks action.
“He said he saw four seats behind the visitor’s bench to the Feb. 10 game, and do we want to go?” Jackie recalled. “We didn’t even look at who they were playing. We said ‘Yep!’ I didn’t even care who they were playing. It didn’t matter.”
Except, it would.
The Knicks were playing the Nuggets. Jonas and Adin had a working knowledge of some of the Nuggets players going into the game because of trading cards they collect. They were well-versed on the sharp-shooting Nuggets rookie, Jamal Murray. They were familiar with Danilo Gallinari because of his time spent with the Knicks.
The family showed up early that night, for pregame warmups. They had Knicks players they wanted to see, but more so maybe get an autograph, a smile, a few words, anything. It turned out to be an empty effort.
But the Nuggets players? They heard and then they turned. Murray tossed candy to the boys first, and then passed a basketball to them. Mike Miller stopped and chatted. Evan mentioned that his son, Jonas, loved to shoot 3-pointers.
“If you like to shoot,” said Miller, grinning as he talked about the encounter, “we’ve got a lot in common.”
Miller gave Jonas his bracelet.
A fan for life was born. Two fans, really, that day.
“The Nuggets, when they turned around and smiled (the boys) were like, ‘Oh my god.’ Like they were even acknowledging us?” Jackie said.
The whole thing made such an impression on the family that she typed an email to the Nuggets public relations staff, a thank you for making two young basketball fans feel special.
“You've never seen a little boy worship a piece of rubber like this,” she wrote. “Jonas takes it off only to sleep, protecting it with his life and staring at it every day. It is his prized possession."
During the game a few players gave my boys their little NBA towels, and made other small gestures.
“That night they fell in love with the Nuggets.”
Head over heels, in fact. In days, Knicks gear became Nuggets gear.
It was a whole new hue of blue.
The family bought the NBA League Pass so the boys could follow their new favorite team.
“It’s nice to be a little boy in love with a team that actually responds to you,” Jackie said. “That actually doesn’t happen.”
But these also aren’t your typical boys. Cruising the Internet? Stop at sports blog called The Bleacher Boys. They are two of five boys – Jesse Damashek, David Casty and Coby Cohen are the others – all from Tenafly, N.J., a borough in Bergen County, who are featured on the site.
There’s a Twitter account that accompanies it, and that’s where Jonas asked his mom one day if he could write Mike Miller and thank him for the bracelet. Sure, she said. They tweeted a picture of Jonas and the bracelet with a longer prose to Miller. They weren’t necessarily expecting any response.
But they got one.
“One morning, one of the other moms was on the sports blog; she calls me and said ‘Did you see the tweet?’ I said no,” Jackie said.
“She said, ‘Mike Miller wrote you guys back.’ And I showed it to him and his world… was like ‘He wrote me back?’”
Yes. Miller did.
“Oh yeah,” Miller said. “I see stuff like that, I definitely am. If I have an interaction with them, or if they have questions or I can help in any way, I try to. It’s difficult to do everybody. But for me that was a special case. They wrote a long message. When you write a long message that means you really care and you’re reaching out.”
The boys desperately wanted to see the Nuggets in person. Miller suggested they get to Charlotte on Mar. 31 for the Nuggets’ game at the Hornets.
“So I looked at my husband and said ‘We’ve got to go to Charlotte.’ We’ve got to surprise the kids and take them to Charlotte,” Jackie said. “So we didn’t even tell them.”
She devised a plan. The parents would get the kids out of school early the day before the game, saying they had a doctor’s appointment. Instead, they had the kids bags packed, tickets ready and a trip to go see the Nuggets planned. Evan videotaped their reactions when they learned that a basketball game, not a doctor’s appointment, was the actual target.
It might as well have been Christmas morning. Screaming. Smiling. Laughing. Joy. They were going to see their new favorite team.
“I was really surprised because I thought we were going to the doctor,” Adin said.
Jonas echoed his brother: “I really thought we were going to the doctor.”
They weren’t seeing a physician, but the trip was just what the doctor ordered. A day later they were on the Spectrum Center court, shaking more Nuggets’ hands, rebounding for players during their pregame warmups, getting to shoot at the rims themselves when all the individual warmups were done.
And Jackie, documenting it all on her iPhone.
Evan observed all of this with the bright eyes of a 9-year old. So much of what was happening in front of him for his sons reminded him of when he fell in love with the game and a team.
“They’re not going to forget it,” Evan said. “The main thing is what about when they look back, 20, 30 years from now. It’ll probably be a whirlwind today, but they’ll never forget.”
Evan smiled. “It’ll make us look good as parents,” he said. “They’ll raise their kids to be Nuggets fans I’m sure. Maybe they’ll get their friends to be fans.”
The magnitude of it all isn’t lost on Miller. He had basketball heroes as a kid, but never got close enough to meet them.
“I could only imagine what it would have been like if I went to a game,” Miller said. “Unfortunately when I was younger I never got a chance to go to an NBA game. For me, these kids, this is why we’re able to do what we do. And if you can’t appreciate that, you don’t deserve to be out here.”
In the end, creating two Nuggets fans – which turned into a family of Nuggets fans – was as simple as a small act of acknowledgement and kindness.
“Once there is an emotional attachment, once people are nice to you, that reels you in forever,” Evan said. “It’s really simple. They were nice when they didn’t need to be nice. They were great to us.”
Jackie gazed at her boys.
Would they ever forget this day?
“I don’t think ever,” she said. “I think this is like, a dream come true. My son looks like he’s going to cry. To be able to do this for them – not that I did anything. But for them to know what’s going through their heads right now… It’s amazing.”