Nuggets bring Pepsi Center atmosphere to Unified Games and Special Olympics Colorado

by Alex Labidou Staff Writer

AURORA, Colo. -- When Regis Jesuit High School unified athlete Megan dribbled down the court, she saw an opening towards the lane and tried to attack it. However, she lost control of the ball and slipped face forward. After an emotional moment on the hardwood, she was helped up by a teammate. Seconds later, she would send dozens of spectators in the stands into a frenzy as she knocked down a bucket from seven feet out. That is the beauty of the Special Olympics Unified Games. It’s a chance for athletes of all abilities to be celebrated for their various skill levels and encouraged to embrace sports

On a snowy Feb. 19th day, the Nuggets helped the Unified Games elevate their atmosphere by bringing their in-game entertainment crew to RJHS in a takeover presented by Cardel  Homes. Rocky was there in full force along with Denver Nuggets Dancers, the Skyline Drumline team and ambassadors Mark Randall and Ervin Johnson. The group put on a show, helping the high school gym feel a bit like the bright lights at Pepsi Center. 

“I love it. The ability for them [the Nuggets] to come out and showcase unified schools and Special Olympics Colorado along with the athletes, teachers and coaches who are doing such wonderful things, it puts us on a bigger stage,” Unified Champion Schools Manager Rick Brady said. “We can reach more people, we can advocate for more people and we can make a bigger impact and it’s because of organizations like the Nuggets.”

Overland would win a tightly contested 48-47 matchup against Regis Jesuit. After the game, there were plenty of emotions on display on the court, ranging from disappointment to pride. Moments like that help showcase the value of the Unified Games. 

“Providing this experience allows them to showcase their skills and gain the confidence to do so great out in the world once they leave their schools,” Brady explained.

He added, “[There is] so much gratitude [from the parents]. A lot of them say their child has never been showcased in this way. It gives you goosebumps just thinking about it and talking about it. That games like this change their lives.”

Randall and Johnson were impressed by the passionate encouragement the athletes received throughout the game. 

“It’s incredible,” Randall said. “You got all this support for these kids. This is what high school athletics is all about…They’re all kids and that’s the bottom line.”

“Just the joy, seeing the young men and women enjoying themselves in the game they love,” Johnson added. “The game of basketball is fun, no matter who you are, your situation or circumstances. Just go out and enjoy the game.” 

Elijah Micah, who played a significant role in Overland’s win, explained why he enjoyed participating in the game. 

“It’s the best. I love unified,” he said. “Unified is just like family, it’s everyone coming together and having fun together. These events are crazy and I love them.”  


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