Top 5 Colorado Pro Sports Team Championships

Written By Dan Holmes on 06/23/2023
The top 5 Colorado sports championships.

It’s a great time to be a Colorado sports fan. No better time has ever existed for fans of the major sports teams in The Mile High State. Especially since Colorado online sports betting is legal and very popular.

In the last seven years, the city of Denver has celebrated three championships by three professional teams. It began with the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos in February 2016 and culminated with the recent NBA championship won by Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets.

Maybe it’s time to put up the “Title Town” signs at the city limits.

The recent success of Denver sports has got us thinking about the best team champions to come from the city and state. How do you compare titles? Don’t worry about that. We did it for you, Coloradans.

No. 1: Denver Nuggets 2022-23

For nine seasons, from 1967 to 1976, the American Basketball Association (ABA) competed with the NBA for pro hoops prominence. In some ways, the ABA was superior, and its legacy is still felt in pro basketball.

The slam dunk contest and three-point shot were both ABA inventions. But, most sports fans never think about that old league, which folded under financial pressure. However, some remnants remain from the red-white-and-blue basketball days of the ABA: including the Denver Nuggets.

The Nuggets were one of the few ABA teams to transition into the NBA for the 1976-77 season. At the time, Denver had fewer than half a million people. It was trying to emerge as a serious metropolitan area known for something other than snow. Today, with a population in excess of 700,000, the city is a major center for sports and business. And it’s also home to the champions of the NBA.

The Nuggets have sports fans in The Mile High State giddy over hoops. In 2023, the team powered its way to the title behind a remarkable superstar with atypical skills.

Nuggets all about ‘The Joker’

Jokić earns more than $33 million for playing basketball, and he’s probably underpaid. The Serbian is 6’11 and 284 pounds. That might make you think he’s a lumbering post player who concentrates on throwing elbows and grabbing rebounds. How wrong that assessment would be.

The man they call “The Joker” is a singularly unique player who combines graceful power moves in the paint with quick-step attacks on the rim and a surprising deftness deep near and beyond the arc for long-range shooting. The man isn’t just a unicorn. He’s one-third unicorn, one-third sasquatch, one-third dragon. The NBA has never seen anything like the big man.

In 2022-23, Jokić led a talented (and still young) roster to the first title for the Nuggets, who had previously never even played for an NBA title. The question isn’t what Jokić will do for an encore. The question is, how many encores can he take at center court of the NBA Finals?

No. 2: Colorado Avalanche 2021-22

This Avalanche team didn’t just win the third Stanley Cup title in team history, it set a franchise record with 119 points. Many of its stars are still wearing the Colorado sweater.

In the “second season” of the playoffs, Cale Makar proved pivotal, scoring 29 points (8 goals and 21 assists) in 20 games, earning him the 2022 Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.

The Avs proved they were tough.

  • Colorado clinched all four of its 2022 playoff series on the road.
  • The Avs’ four losses in the postseason are the second-fewest ever in the modern era.
  • Colorado had 10 come-from-behind wins, tying a record.

This championship was particularly pleasing for fans. In 2016-17, the Avs had the worst record in the NHL. The rebuild was rapid, and the taste of champion and celebration on enemy ice in Game 6 of the Cup Finals was a welcome sight for hockey fans in Colorado.

To win the Stanley Cup, the Avs had to dethrone the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Some experts didn’t think it was possible. But, as they had throughout the postseason, Colorado used smothering defensive pressure and timely scoring to prevail.

The 2021-22 team went 16-4 in the playoffs and never trailed in a series. The outcome was never in doubt, as Colorado delivered a title that again proved the franchise is among the elite in the NHL.

No. 3: Colorado Avalanche 2000-01

The 2001 Colorado Avalanche will forever be remembered as one of the most dominant and talented teams in NHL history. Led by their fearless captain, Joe Sakic, and coached by the legendary Bob Hartley, the Avalanche embarked on a remarkable journey that culminated in a well-deserved championship title.

The Avalanche entered the 2000-2001 season with high expectations, having reached the Western Conference Finals the previous year. The star-studded roster included Peter Forsberg, Milan Hejduk, Rob Blake, and Patrick Roy in goal. The team had a formidable lineup that struck fear into their opponents.

From the start of the season, the Avalanche showcased their offensive prowess and overall depth. Sakic led the team in scoring, amassing an impressive 118 points, while Forsberg provided a master class in playmaking. Hejduk and Alex Tanguay added to the scoring onslaught, combining for 68 goals and 88 assists. With a potent offense, the Avalanche topped the league in goals scored, thrilling fans with their electrifying performances night after night.

For many Colorado sports fans, this version of the Avs is their favorite hockey team in franchise history.

Avs had a suffocating defense to go with an explosive offense

However, it was not just their offensive firepower that defined the 2001 Avs. The team’s defensive unit, anchored by Blake and Adam Foote, provided a sturdy foundation. Roy, a seasoned veteran and one of the greatest goaltenders of all time was a wall between the pipes, instilling confidence in his teammates and frustrating opposing players with his exceptional stinginess.

The Avalanche’s regular-season success translated to the playoffs. They dispatched the Vancouver Canucks in the first round, sweeping them in four games. In the Western Conference Semifinals, they faced a formidable challenge in the Los Angeles Kings. Despite a valiant effort by the Kings, the Avs triumphed in a hard-fought seven-game series, with Forsberg’s iconic between-the-legs goal becoming one of the defining moments of the playoffs and Denver sports history.

In the Western Conference Finals, the Avs found themselves facing their bitter rivals, the Detroit Red Wings. In a clash of powerhouses, the series showcased intensity, drama, and exceptional performances from both teams. However, the Avalanche’s determination and resilience prevailed, as they defeated the Red Wings in six games, earning themselves a ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Facing the New Jersey Devils in the Finals, the Avalanche continued their dominance. Led by the stellar play of Sakic, who was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, and the exceptional goaltending of Roy, the Avalanche claimed their second Stanley Cup in franchise history. The series was hard-fought and went to a decisive Game 7, but the Avalanche emerged victorious with a 3-1 victory, sealing their championship triumph.

The 2001 Avs’ incredible depth, offensive prowess, and exceptional goaltending made them an unstoppable force. The team’s legacy lives on, and their championship run will always be remembered as a testament to their greatness and the pinnacle of their collective efforts for their fans in Colorado.

No. 4: Denver Broncos 2015

The Broncos rule sports in Denver. Even when other teams are enjoying success, the football team demands the most headlines. That’s because the NFL is the most popular sport in the U.S., and NFL betting fuels that popularity in many ways.

The third Broncos title was special because in some ways it was a reboot of the franchise’s second championship. In 1998, the team won the Super Bowl largely due to a fantastic defense, a suffocating style of play that strangled opposing teams. Both in 1998 and 2015, the Broncos had a grizzled ancient icon at quarterback. In Super Bowl 50, it was Manning, and in ’98 for Super Bowl 33, it was John Elway.

Speaking of Elway, the former QB was general manager and executive vice president of football operations for the Broncos in 2015, in his fourth full season in those roles. Just as he did when he wore shoulder pads, Elway was a success in a suit and tie, too. He made several moves to build the top-ranked defense in the league and secured the signing of Manning in 2012.

Super Bowl 50 was never really in doubt, thanks to linebacker Von Miller and the Denver defense. Even though Manning could only muster 11 first downs and 141 passing yards, the Broncos never trailed. The final score was 24-10. Miller was MVP of the game, and Manning, like Elway, finished his epic career with a Super Bowl celebration.

No. 5: Denver Broncos 1998

Without a doubt, the most popular athlete in the history of Colorado sports is Elway. Coloradans loved his powerful arm, his ability to run the football, and even those iconic front teeth.

From the beginning of his professional football career, Elway was a coveted asset. The Broncos had to out-compete several other teams to secure Elway after the 1983 NFL Draft. The Colts had selected Elway as the overall No. 1 pick, but he wasn’t interested in playing for them. Elway already had a pro contract to play baseball for the Yankees. But the Broncos, realizing the impact Elways’s talent could have on their team, swung a deal to get him. It was a wise move: Denver appeared in three Super Bowls in Elway’s first seven seasons. But it would not be until Elway was a veteran that he would hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

Elway’s 16-year career was spent entirely in the orange and blue of the Broncos. It was punctuated by an appearance in Super Bowl 33, on Jan. 31, 1999. In that game, Elway exhibited the grit and field leadership that was the hallmark of his legendary career. The Broncos triumphed, 34-19, to win their second consecutive Super Bowl title.

Team owner Pat Bowlen had famously stated a year earlier during the Super Bowl celebration that “This one’s for John!” But in the aftermath of the Super Bowl XXXIII victory, Bowlen and Elway simply embraced in a long, tight hug, signifying the tight bond and crucial nature of the relationship between the franchise and its iconic quarterback.

The next Colorado title: Can Wilson follow the Elway and Manning path?

Someone once said, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” While we’re sure that person was probably not very popular at parties, that phrase is appropriate for the current quarterback situation in Denver.

Russell Wilson, like Elway and Manning when they won Super Bowls in the orange and blue, is a former All-Pro signal-caller who played his best football years ago. Still, Wilson possesses the savvy ability to manage a game and limit mistakes. At least that’s what Denver fans hope can happen.

Oddsmakers at FanDuel Sportsbook Colorado have the Broncos at +4500 to win the next Super Bowl. Last season in Wilson’s first in the thin air of Denver, the team struggled and won only five games. But, there is hope. Just two years ago, they had the NFL’s third-ranked defense. That means the Broncos could ride a great defensive unit and a veteran QB to more postseason success.

Photo by Julie Jacobson/AP Photo
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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes writes about sports betting, sports media, and sports betting legislative matters. He's the author of three books, and previously reported for Major League Baseball, as well as the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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