Nuggets with local ties making mark on big stage in NBA playoffs

Michael Porter Jr. and Christian Braun, a former Missouri Tiger and Kansas Jayhawk, are advancing to the NBA Finals.
From left, Denver Nuggets guard Christian Braun, center Nikola Jokic, forward Michael Porter...
From left, Denver Nuggets guard Christian Braun, center Nikola Jokic, forward Michael Porter Jr. and guard Bones Hyland joke with each other as time runs out in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)(David Zalubowski | AP)
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 1:03 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - The Denver Nuggets topped the Los Angeles Lakers Monday night in Game 4 in Western Conference Finals, 113-111. The team out of the Mile High City is making its first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history, and two players with Kansas City ties who have hoisted many awards in the past hope to add an Oscar Robinson Trophy to that list.

Rookie Guard Christian Braun won an NCAA National Championship just more than a year ago with the Kansas Jayhawks under Hall of Fame head coach Bill Self. Shortly after, the Jayhawk declared for the NBA Draft and went 21st overall to the Nuggets. Braun, amongst other collegiate honors, is the 65th all-time 1,000-point scorer out of Lawrence and played a key role in the 2022 title run.

With a mother, aunt and uncle that all played basketball at Missouri and formerly brother Parker Braun, the local ties run deep for the rookie that looks forward to playing in the NBA Finals. The Burlington, Kansas, native and Blue Valley Northwest alumnus was also named Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year in 2018-2019 and was an MVP in one of the three-straight state titles for the Huskies.

If Braun and company emerge victorious in the NBA Finals, he will be in a top-tier company of players that were able to win a title at every level from high school to college. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson and Kansas City native Lucius Allen highlight this list that potentially awaits the former Jayhawk. Allen, a 2004 Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee, was a back-to-back state champion from Wyandotte High School, won three consecutive NCAA championships at UCLA under John Wooden between 1967-1969 and then won an NBA World Championship with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971.

Braun has played in 14 postseason, games averaging 11.8 minutes and 2.3 points per game in his first year in the league.

Before Braun joined the Gatorade Player of the Year family, Small Forward Michael Porter Jr. won the award in 2016-2017 out of Seattle. It completed the trifecta of earning Naismith Player of the Year and MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game. One of the only four other players in history to claim all three out of high school was LeBron James in 2003, whom Porter Jr. and his squad swept.

Porter Jr. went to Missouri as the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit, playing under his father, Michael Porter, Sr. and with his younger brother, Jontay. Porter checked out of the season opener with an injury within the first two minutes, leading to nagging back issues that kept him off the court until the following spring. Despite the series of unfortunate events, he went 14th overall to the Nuggets in 2018.

MPJ averaged just over 36 minutes a game against the Lakers, with 15 points and 9.3 rebounds a game.

Game One of the NBA Finals will take place Thursday, June 1 at 7:30 p.m. against the winner of the series between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics.