Former Arizona Stars Aaron Gordon and Zeke Nnaji Win NBA Championship with the Denver Nuggets
Gordon's versatility shines and Nnaji celebrates as the Denver Nuggets secure their first NBA Championship by defeating the Miami Heat in a five-game series. This historic victory also marked a moment of triumph for former Arizona Wildcats, who became the 10th and 11th former Wildcats to win an NBA title as players.
Gordon's impact throughout the NBA Finals was undeniable, showcasing his versatility and proving his worth beyond his electrifying dunking abilities. He played a significant role in Denver's championship run, averaging 14 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. Notably, Gordon delivered a standout performance in Game 4, leading the Nuggets to victory with a game-high 27 points on an efficient 11-for-15 shooting, along with seven rebounds and six assists. While Gordon faced some adversity in the championship-clinching game, struggling with his shot, he made a crucial defensive play by delivering a decisive block in the fourth quarter. However, he also found himself on the wrong side of a controversial call when he was called for a foul while defending a Jimmy Butler 3-point attempt. Despite the unfavorable decision, Gordon's overall impact and contributions throughout the series were highly valuable. As for Nnaji, the young big man’s playing time during the playoffs was limited, but he shared the joy of winning the championship alongside his teammates and family. Although he made only a brief appearance in Game 3 of the Finals without recording any statistics, Nnaji's presence and contributions during the season were significant for the Nuggets. With their championship dominant victory, Gordon and Nnaji join an illustrious list of former Wildcats who have secured NBA championship rings. This also marks the sixth time former Wildcats have been teammates on an NBA championship team, with the most recent occurrence being Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson's tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. During Gordon’s collegiate career at Arizona in the 2013-14 season, he earned Sporting News Third Team All-American honors and was recognized as the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. On the other hand, Nnaji's impact at Arizona during the 2019-20 season was equally notable, as he was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, leading the conference with 14 double-doubles and ranking ninth in scoring (16.1) and fifth in rebounding (8.6). Gordon and Nnaji add to the legacy of Arizona Wildcats who have achieved success at the highest level of professional basketball. From Arizona to winning an NBA championship shows the talent and development nurtured within the Arizona basketball program, leaving an indelible mark on both the university and the NBA.