Tuesday, December 5 2023
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It finally happened — the Denver Nuggets have won an NBA championship after beating the Miami Heat, 94-89, in Game 5 Monday night to close out the series. Nikola Jokic was named Finals MVP after putting together a historic playoff run, but he’s not the only Nuggets player who made history en route to Denver’s championship. Rookie guard Christian Braun joined an elite group of names after the final buzzer sounded and the Nuggets were crowned champions, becoming just the fifth player in league history to win an NBA title and NCAA championship in back-to-back years. 

Braun was a starter on the University of Kansas team that won a championship in 2022, overcoming the largest deficit in NCAA title game history to help capture the Jayhawks’ fourth men’s basketball title. He was then drafted 21st overall by the Nuggets in the 2022 NBA Draft, and after a rookie season that saw him appear in 76 games, he joins a short list of players who have won at the college level and in the NBA in consecutive years. Braun joins Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Henry Bibby and Billy Thompson as the only players to accomplish that feat.

Player Years NCAA NBA

Bill Russell


San Francisco


Henry Bibby




Magic Johnson


Michigan State


Billy Thompson




Christian Braun




While Braun didn’t have quite the same level of impact as guys like Russell and Johnson did on their title teams as rookies, the former Kansas product did have his moment during this championship run in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. With 15 points on 7 of 8 from the field, Braun became just the fourth rookie in the last 20 years with a 15-point performance in the Finals. He was a key figure in breaking Miami’s zone defense in that game, making great off-ball cuts to the rim, and attacking on closeouts when the ball swung to him. He received high praise for that performance from Jokic, who said Braun “won us the game” after guys were struggling to put points on the board. 

The level of intensity and energy he brought on the defensive side of the ball was just as important, too. Throughout Denver’s title run Braun proved to be a defensive pest when called upon, and in Game 2 of the Finals he racked up three steals. He began to earn Michael Malone’s trust over the course of the regular season, and as a result became one of the breakout stars of Denver’s title run.

With an NBA title now on his resume, there are very few people in the NBA who have had a more successful two years than Braun has. Though he’s reached the mountaintop in terms of team success, there’s still plenty of room for Braun to develop as a player. He showed that he can be relied upon on in a minor role, now he’ll need to build on that and earn a more permanent spot in Denver’s rotation next season.

Nuggets NBA Finals championship gear released

The Nuggets have won their first NBA title ever. You can now buy Nuggets championship shirts, hats, jerseys, hoodies, and much more to celebrate the historic win. Get Nuggets NBA championship gear here now.

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Source: CBSSports.com


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