National Basketball Association
Why Nuggets 'Who's your daddy' Lakers chant is 'actually a sign of respect'
National Basketball Association

Why Nuggets 'Who's your daddy' Lakers chant is 'actually a sign of respect'

Published Oct. 27, 2023 7:00 a.m. ET

Jamal Murray was stunned. 

He was leaning against the scorers' table as his Denver Nuggets hosted the Los Angeles Lakers on NBA opening night Tuesday when the sold-out crowd of more than 19,000 fans at Ball Arena began chanting at the visitors headed for a 119-107 loss, "Who's your daddy?"

His jaw dropped. His eyes widened. He looked at his coach. 

"This is you," Murray told Michael Malone. "This is your fault."


They laughed, high-fived and hugged each other. Malone, who coached the Nuggets to their first championship in franchise history in June, shook his head and said, "It wasn't me."

Malone wasn't being coy. 

That chant was born from something that was said four months earlier, when Vic Lombardi, a 54-year-old host for Altitude TV and Altitude Sports Radio, introduced Malone at the Nuggets' championship parade on June 15. 

"He came into this world as the son of a coach, but in these playoffs he became the Lakers' daddy," Lombardi said of Malone, referring to the Nuggets sweeping the Lakers in the Western Conference finals before they beat the Miami Heat in five games.

Lombardi never thought those words would take on a life of their own, including becoming a rallying cry for fans.

In fact, Lombardi was just as surprised as Murray when he heard the chant. 

"Red-faced, a little embarrassed," Lombardi told FOX Sports of his reaction. "And somewhat vindicated at the same time. There are a lot of people who think like I do."

Lombardi, who was born in Denver and grew up a Nuggets fan, said he wasn't necessarily trying to take a shot at the purple and gold when he called Malone "the Lakers' daddy." 

"It's actually a sign of respect," he said, pointing out that the Lakers were 7-0 in playoff series against the Nuggets before May, including three conference finals wins.

"They have owned us. The Lakers have owned Denver for the better part of half a century. ...It was meant as a, 'Hey man, Michael Malone deserves credit here. Look at what he did: In one series, he erased 50 years of a haunted past.'"

Malone also had fun poking at the Lakers during the playoffs, specifically James. 

After James alluded to retirement following a 40-point, 10-rebound and nine-assist performance in Game 4 of the conference finals, Malone jokingly fired back. In an appearance on "The Pat McAfee Show" on June 14, Malone said, "I'm thinking about retiring." 

Two days after Malone's dig and one day after the parade, James chimed in with an Instagram post seemingly aimed at the coach. 

"In Europe for the last past few weeks minding my business and I hear I'm on your mind that much huh???"" James wrote. "I mean I guess I see why. ... Enjoy your light but just know I'm the SUN."

Lombardi wants to believe he had nothing to do with eliciting a response from the longtime face of the NBA. 

"Why would LeBron care what some dumb sports guy in Denver has to say?" he asked. 

Lombardi said he was simply having some much-deserved fun at the parade following five decades of Nuggets misery, often at the Lakers' expense. 

"It wasn't long ago, maybe five years ago, 10 years ago, you'd go to a Nuggets-Lakers game here in Denver and 50 percent of the crowd would be Laker fans," he said. "It would take over the arena. And when a bucket was made, you didn't know if it was a Nuggets bucket or a Lakers bucket. They literally half-owned the arena."

Because of that, Lombardi said that he – and many fans – took a special sort of pleasure in the Nuggets beating the Lakers en route to the title. 

"If you say you made the Miami Heat your daddy, it doesn't resonate the same, right?" he said. "Nobody cares about the Miami Heat in Denver.

"...Longtime Nuggets fans, they all know deep down in their heart what it means to beat the Lakers on the way to a championship. It would not have been the same had they not beaten the Lakers."

After Lombardi's Lakers shot, he said he has had to be "on guard," because some people have messaged him with threats. He acknowledged that even some Nuggets fans found his words tasteless. 

He also fears that the chant could give the Lakers extra juice against the Nuggets. "I never want to make things harder for the players," he said. 

But by and large, most people seemed to view the whole thing as good-natured trash-talk, including the Nuggets brass. 

"If the Nuggets were thoroughly disappointed with me, I'd understand," he said. "But at the same time, I did get to host the ring ceremony."

Lombardi also introduced Malone at the ring ceremony before Tuesday's game, though this time he refrained from calling him "the Lakers' daddy."

But a few months ago, as about 750,000 people took to the streets to celebrate the Nuggets' first title, he felt as though he was at a big party with a bunch of friends.

So he went off script.  

"When the bully beats you up for all these years, and you finally get a shot in on the bully," he said, "by God, you're going to say something."

Lakers lose fifth straight game vs. Nuggets, is this the same old purple and gold?

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.

FOLLOW Follow your favorites to personalize your FOX Sports experience
National Basketball Association
Los Angeles Lakers
Denver Nuggets

Get more from National Basketball Association Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more