Yellow borders the top and basal of her white poster. In fleet blue, she’s stenciled “NUGGETS” in all caps, “WE BELIEVE” beneath in black, and “IN YOU” on the third line. The assurance bounces up and bottomward in GIF form, aerial aloft her hair. She’s animated wide, bobbing her arch in rhythm.
Vicki Ray absolutely has acceptance in her Denver Nuggets. She hasn’t absent a home bold in 29 years, spending almost 50 nights per division in the aboriginal row at Pepsi Center. Players accomplished and present apperceive her artlessly as “The Bonbon Lady,” consistently alms accoutrements of treats during their jog aback to the halftime locker room. Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith admired Twizzlers as abundant as Gary Harris prefers Acerb Patch Kids today.
Ray is blind of aback and who cut the footage of her adulatory central the stadium, but that GIF consistently seems to pop up on her Twitter feed. There it was afresh on Aug. 6.
“And I’m like, wait,” Ray told Bleacher Report. “That says Phoenix Suns.”
If Denver had defeated Portland that evening, it would accept helped Phoenix’s adventure to bastard into the Western Conference playoffs, way aback afore the Nuggets became the darlings of this NBA postseason.
Denver agape off the Jazz and Clippers in celebrated fashion, acceptable the alone aggregation in NBA history to appear aback from afterwards 3-1 deficits. And while they aisle the Lakers 2-0, the Nuggets were an Anthony Davis buzzer-beater abroad from a 1-1 alternation tie in the Western Conference Finals.
Denver’s bewitched run has provided their superfan, Ray, a much-needed abatement as the coronavirus communicable continues to agitate circadian life. For months, she backward home as the car dealership she works for shuttled cartage to her -to-be customers’ homes and accomplished all paperwork over email. Her babe is at accident because of longstanding issues with asthma. Denver’s blissful postseason has helped the Rays breathe a bit easier. “It helps,” Ray said. “But it’s not like actuality there.”
Ray does not accept cable, so she beggared on her fleet Torrey Craig jersey and watched both of Denver’s beauteous Bold 7 victories dancing in a friend’s active room. She misses her home abroad from home dearly: Section 130, Row 1, Seats 5 and 6, although she swears she has no abstraction how adequate the chairs are. “I’ve never sat,” Ray smiled.
Ray originally hails from Virginia. Her bedmate Russell’s IT assignment alien the brace to Colorado 30-some years ago, but Ray faced bouts of debilitating homesickness. More than a thousand afar afar her from the accouchement and grandchildren she alleged every day, aback aback long-distance calls agitated alike college chargers. “Our blast bill was like $700 a month,” Ray laughed. Desperate for a band-aid in 1992, Russell pitched his wife on accessory a Nuggets contest. “I don’t appetite to go to no abuse basketball game,” Ray said.
But she ultimately relented. Ray admired adolescent centermost Dikembe Mutombo’s activity and activity and the team’s all-embracing joy. “I couldn’t alike allocution afterwards the aboriginal bold I screamed so loud,” Ray said.
After Denver abashed top-seeded Seattle in 1994, acceptable the aboriginal No. 8 berry in NBA history to beforehand to the additional annular of the playoffs, the Rays fabricated their season-long commitment. They bought seats adjoining to the Nuggets’ locker allowance entrance. That way, Ray could calmly hug and high-five the players as they absolved off and on the court. She morphed into Denver’s actionable aggregation mom. “They’re like my family,” Ray said. Russell began cutting a custom jersey with “Vicki’s Husband” printed on the back. “She has a huge history,” says aloft Nuggets accepted administrator Arturas Karnisovas.
By the 2002-03 season, Mutombo had continued aback departed, but the Nuggets acquired a new absorbing centermost in Marcus Camby. Alone the UMass artefact couldn’t dress for Denver until January afterward October hip surgery. Ray capital to distinctively acceptable his Nuggets debut. She apprehend that Camby, aloft alive from his operation, aboriginal asked area Denver’s almanac stood—and again told a abettor he was appetite a Nestle Crunch bar. So for his aperture bold adjoin Cleveland, as Camby opened his accoutrements to hug Ray en avenue to the floor, she additionally handed him a sandwich baggie abounding of chocolate. Other Nuggets players began allurement for accoutrements of bonbon too. To abutting the decade, Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith admired Twizzlers.
Each night, Ray was there, continuing at Bench 6 in Section 130’s aboriginal row. “I can’t brainstorm how abundant money she spent on candy,” says aloft Nuggets abettor drillmaster Micah Nori. It’s both the aftermost bench in the row, giving dizzying admission to the tunnel, and additionally the aboriginal bench abaft the hockey boards bare at Avalanche games, so Ray calmly began agreement her bonbon accoutrements aloft the divider.
Longtime Nuggets swingman Wilson Chandler accustomed peanut adulate cups—a admixture of miniturare, alone captivated treats in accession to two-packs of Reese’s. “She’s aloof a abundant person,” said Chandler, now a Brooklyn Nets forward. “She’s one of the better admirers in the NBA. She’s there every day, every game, bringing candy.” Aback Gary Harris accustomed in 2014, Ray aboriginal able him a bag of acerb gummies. The swingman accepted he admired the aciculate candies, accurately dejected raspberry-flavored Acerb Patch Kids. But as a rookie, Harris generally forgot to stop by Ray on his jog aback from his pregame shootaround. Ray fabricated abiding to banderole him bottomward at halftime. “The bonbon lady!” Harris would shout. “She’s aloof unique, man,” he said. “She’s allotment of the Nuggets. She’s gotta accomplish abiding we get our candy.”
Journeyman advanced Torrey Craig spent four years bouncing about teams in Australia and New Zealand afore abutting the Nuggets in 2017. As he’s carved a abiding role in Mike Malone’s rotation, Ray’s constant attendance helped accomplish Denver feel like an absolute home.“Ever aback I got actuality she’s apparent so abundant support,” Craig said. Ray bound abstruse to adapt him accoutrements of adhering bears. “I don’t apperceive how she do it,” Craig said. “Every game, bringing the candy, aforementioned abode every time. I aloof anticipate it’s appealing amazing.”
Ray’s abutment has never wavered, alike afterwards Russell died from a achievement in July 2016. He was 62. Longtime aloft Nuggets media relations administrator Tim Gelt, the aggregation amulet Rocky, Greg Hutton from the sales appointment and several admirers abounding the funeral. Ray accustomed flowers from the Nuggets basketball operations staff. Several aloft players and aggregation dancers accomplished out to action condolences over Facebook. Malone and several players larboard her claimed letters aback the Nuggets buried a video accolade for Russell at a bold anon afterwards his death.
In the years since, her babe has best generally abounding Bench 5 while Ray hovers aloft Bench 6, acclamation and hollering for her Nuggets as loud as ever, up until the NBA abeyance in March. She spends hours crafting cream lath signs, announcement every player’s name with different-colored markers, band and ribbons. She clips them into three metal rings so she can cast throughout her assemblage of creations whenever an alone walks off the attic from his pregame warm-up.
She’s had that “Nuggets We Believe In You” assurance featured in the viral GIF for over 15 years. “The aftermost one broke,” Ray said. She has abutting to 1,000 old posters blimp central a behemothic closet in her amateurish basement. Aback she creates anniversary sign, claiming “We Love” and again the player’s name, Ray leaves a amplitude to after book the chat “Still,” for aback that amateur accordingly allotment as a visiting opponent. Whether you’ve starred for the Nuggets like Carmelo Anthony or were a rotational assets like accepted Denver abettor drillmaster Ryan Bowen, Ray consistently pays admiration to her aloft guys. “There’s superfan Vicki, ‘We Still Love You, Ryan Bowen,’” he chuckled. “Former players absolutely acknowledge it.”
Ray alike makes a few signs for a scattering of referees. Tony Brothers has consistently been affectionate to her and additionally hails from her built-in Virginia. The official gets his own custom-built poster. He acquainted abutting abundant with Ray to address her a anxious agenda aback Russell died.
These playoffs, Ray has remained affiliated to the aggregation through her acclaimed signs. Afore anniversary game, she letters Bowen and adolescent Nuggets abettor drillmaster John Beckett the GIF of her celebrating. For the Western Conference Finals, she brings her affiche and watches from a bounded bar.
Though LeBron James is blocking the path, the Nuggets angle aloof eight wins abroad from the bays Russell and Vicki Ray consistently absurd they would win. “He would accept admired that,” Ray says.
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