Foto: Marko Milenković/Instagram
Just sixteen hours after that devastating defeat to Maccabi Haifa (actually it was a tie, but we needed to win) at the Serbian ‘Marakana’, I picked up Adam, Harrison and Ryan near Aleksandar Nikolić Hall. As I watched them take the wrong turn, I had to get out my car and go meet them at the intersection. We got into my Opel Astra, which i didn’t clean for days (sorry guys), and we headed out to this craft brewery that my friend suggested. I figured, they drank wine, they drank a ton of rakija, we might as well go for some local beer. As we’re arriving to the old Port of Belgrade, guys were fascinated by this ‘ugly’ (I find it beautiful) part of the old industrial core of Belgrade, which is filled with stories and history. Btw, if you’re wondering where was the rest of the crew, they were sightseeing, while ‘my part’ of the group were busy working, doing interviews - first with Miško Ražnatović (Nikola’s agent), and then with Milan Dozet, who’s a Sporting Director at KK Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade basketball). We ordered some lager, except Adam. That guy loves his stout. And we sat down to do this interview.
Q: Let’s start with the DNVR. Tell me the story behind it. How did it start? When? What’s kind of the ultimate goal for the company?
Adam: ”It’s one of those things that came together, more than it was started. There was a company called ‘BSN’ that existed. BSN - Brandon Spano Network. He’s the CEO of our company. He started the company in 2013-14 and it was a blog. And they wrote a lot like the Athletic. To be honest, in my opinion - no personality. It was like ‘Hey, we’re gonna try to write and be objective. Fun was not a part of the equation. At the same time i’m starting my career, writing for the site called Denver Stiffs and doing podcasts, throwing parties, selling shirts and growing, and growing, and growing. Eventually, Brandon sees that they need to adjust. They start to adjust. They start to sell shirts. They start to do parties. Eventually he says ‘We need to get Adam, and Eric, who’s doing all the design, and bring them in and start over. Reset. Do something new. So, we join the company in 2019. The company completely changed it’s identity. At that point forward it was a new thing. At that point it was DNVR. Eric and I created the personality of the company and the rest is history.” Harrison didn’t have anything to add up. Adam’s response was 100% on point.
Q: What makes it special, what makes it different?
Adam: ”The first thing that makes it different is the fact that we’re not afraid to admit that we’re biased” which I loved as a response and then proceeded to mention The Podfather himself, Bill Simmons to which Adam said: ”There’s even a difference from Bill Simmons and that is that he’s in no way a journalist. He’s an analyst. Traditionally, journalism and analysis were completely separate and when those lines blured, they only blured for certain people that were trained journalists. What we do, contains journalism but it’s not just journalism and it’s not maybe a perfect journalism. But there is a journalism to what we do. And we admit our bias because that allows us to speak more honestly. We tell you how we feel and then you can judge us how much you feel.” I added a comment about how Adriatik is supposed to be run and that it’s a similar formula because at the end, you’ll never be able to please everyone. There’s always gonna be someone complaining to which Adam added: ”Some people even blamed us for Red Star losing yesterday.”
Harrison: ”The biased thing is funny ‘cause everybody who covers sports is biased. It’s impossible not to be. The beat writer who’s been covering the Nuggets for 20 years, if that person existed, no matter how professional they are, they’re gonna be biased. It’s stupid pretending you’re objective 100% of the time.
After i said i’m glad that Harrison mentioned beat writing/reporting i asked him:
Q: You’re a beat reporter for the Nuggets. That’s something that’s quite common in the US, but it practically doesn’t exist here. How would you describe your job? What does it take to do it?
Harrison: ”Talking to the players is obviously the coolest thing about the job. And pre-covid, we’re able to go into the locker room and talk with them, on the record, off the record, which is usually how you get the best insight. That’s something that a lot of people in the media don’t get to do. So, just the face-to-face interaction with the players is probably the best insight that you can get.”
When asked about the end goal - a bee interupted us. We did our best to get rid of it, laughed a little bit and then Adam jumped in with: ”I’ll tell the end goal. We’re so successfull that we get to do things like coming to Serbia whenever we want to” accompanied by big laughs from Harrison and Ryan, the camera guy.
Adam: ”DNVR is THE highlight of my career. When i said ”Really?”, he responded with: ”It really is. People ask me all the time. Do you wanna go national? You should go national. I don’t want to. I’d do it if i had to. I’d do it if DNVR was no longer a good thing for me. But i like Colorado. I like Denver. I wanna be in Denver. I like the Nuggets. I don’t like the Lakers. I don’t like the rest of the teams. They’re interesting but i don’t feel the same way talking about them as i do this. So for me, my final destination is Denver. I want to be good enough in Denver.”
As we we’re sipping of some of the best craft lager Belgrade has to offer i just had to ask about the Athletic and Denver. I love that website. I’ve been following it for years and it always baffled me that they don’t have a Nuggets reporter.
Q: Why doesn't the Athletic have a beat reporter for the Nuggets?
Adam:” It’s a complex question. There’s a complex answer to it. As he was starting to answer I interupted him with the queston ”Do you guys think that you’re a part of that?”, to which he responded: ”Yeah, probably a little bit. But more is that there’s not a way to make money in Denver doing what the Athletic does.” As I was sipping my beer, I asked Adam about Utah Jazz having a beat reporter while being in a much smaller market. Adam responded with: ”Ok. First - do they make money? Second - the Jazz are the only team in Utah. There’s no other team. Denver has every team” to which Ryan also added that Denver is a Broncos town. ”Broncos are the most popular team by far.” Then fellas informed me about Nick Kosminder and his background of covering the Nuggets and then switching to the Broncos. (Nick is a beat reporter for the Athletic who’s covering the Denver Broncos).
”Doing what we do is a bit of journalism. If we only wrote articles, we wouldn’t surive. If we only did podcasts, we wouldn’t survive either. Part of what we do is that we learned that you need to have it all. Through laughter Adam then added ”And a bar”. So that’s why i don’t think they would succeed, by doing just that (writing). Even though the fans deserve great writing and they have good writers (The Athletic). And they know it. That’s (probably) why they dont do it.”
Ok. Let’s talk about this (legendary) trip of yours. Let’s talk about Serbia.
Q: How would you describe this trip so far, using only a single word?
Harrison: ”Unbeliavable. To which i added: ”Really? That’s the best you can do as a beat writer?” We laughed and drank. Ryan ‘mocked’ Harrison while Windy tried to get himself out of it by adding ”I say unbelievable because it’s not actually beliavable that we’re even here right now. It’s hard to fathom that we were actually able to come here and do everything we did while being here.” To be honest, he bought me a little bit with that answer. ”It’s like if I was trying to tell somebody about this trip, it would seem like i’m full of shit. Because to come here and talk to the people that we have, and to have the meals that we had, and the experiences that we had like that fucking soccer game last night…that’d be unbeliavable. ”Ok. Let’s not talk about that” - I added as a tear was coming down my cheek.
Adam: ”For me it would be connection.” I loved that answer to be frank. ”I would say in a way, it’s a bad metaphor, but in a way, we DNVR and Serbia had been dating since Jokic arrived.” As Adam was othering those words, Ryan kinda rolled his eyes but we deciced to let him continue. ”We came here and we got married. And then consummated the marriage.” ”I mean, come on man” and ”Was I asleep during that” were mine and Harisson’s rebuttals. ”Cut that part. Cut that part out” said Adam. Sorry buddy, but everybody has to hear this metaphor.
Q: We talked about this last night. Ever since you guys came, everyone wants to take you to the best spots. But, what’s the worst thing about the country, city or the people that you have experience so far? If there were any.
Ryan answered with ”How come you don’t have ACs?”, which baffled me. I was like what do you mean, to which Adam added ”What Belgrade gains in culture, it loses in comfort, compared to the US. In the US for example, it’s built into the infrastructure. Everything in the US is comfortable and young but it doesn’t have the culture, the culture like over here. But everywhere you go is comfortable. Streets are comfortable. Everything is comfortable. But to me that’s not the problem. That’s just the difference. Honestly, this might sound lame cause i know there are bigger problems here, i know there are bigger issues, but i just haven’t encountered them so far. I think people are a bit more suspicious. And I understand why and most people have not been. People that we’ve been interacting with have been amazing but people online…there are some people saying like ”What are you doing here?” and things like that.”
I had to start with Harrison with this next one, because Adam has been taking the stage for to long.
Q: What did you know about or off Serbia before Nikola Jokić was drafted by the Nuggets?
Harrison: ”I mean, I knew Serbia was in a couple wars in the 90s. Did I even know that Serbia was a great basketball country? No. Now, i’m ashamed and embarrased that I didn’t. It’s kinda weird. It’s kinda like ‘out of sight, out of mind’ type of thing. If there was one of your guys on the Nuggets, i’d definitely know a lot more about Serbia” to which Ryan addded ”100%”, but I had no idea.”
Adam: ”Same answer. And it’s not that I didn’t know. It’s just that I never thought about it. The same way you never thought about Colorado. Maybe you knew a thing or two, but you never thought about Colorado and what it meant. Strictly about basketball. When you ask about Serbia and Serbian people, I certainly knew about the bombings, but to honest with you, I didn’t know a lot about it.”
Let’s talk about a lighter subject.
Q: How does it feel to be embraced and appreciated and received in the way that you guys did in Belgrade?
Harrison:” It feels amazing. It seems like everybody loves us. I didn’t know how we’d be received. But everybody has been excited. Everybody has been writing us for weeks leading up to this trip. It was like ‘Oh, I cant wait for you guys to get here. I cant wait to meet you guys” But I don’t think that I expected a reaction to be 100% positive. I mean, i’m sure there are people who are ‘mad’ out there that we’re here. I asked ”Out there? You mean Colorado?” to which Harrison responeded with ”No. Here.” That stunned me. Adam then added ”There are though. There are some people that are mad that we’re here. Suspicous! We put out a tweet one time and somebody quoted it with ”Go back home now”. Not everybody, like 99% of the people were fantastic but somebody says something like and you kinda remember it. ”It sticks with you”, Harrison added.
”It means the world” Harrison said when asked about how does he feel that people from another country, another continent love and appreciate what they’re doing for one of our guys (Nikola Jokić). ”It shows how big of an impact we can have, not just locally but we know our message is getting half way across the world which is an incredible feeling.”
Adam: ”This is my core belief. Before we started DNVR, this was my core belief, that it’s so hard to make a connection in the world. I actually think for most people these days…it’s harder then ever, and people are struggling more then ever to make that connection. I think the best way in the world to make that connection is through art. All types of art (music, movies, writing, anything). I think the second best way to make that connection, in my opinion, is through sports. So, for me, this is a proof of concept for my core values, my core belief, that what i’m doing 10,000 miles from home is actually connecting myself to hundreds and thousands of people.
After all the good and positive stuff, i had to ask!
Q: What’s the weirdest thing about this place?
Harrison: “Every dinner lasts like three hours. I mean, i kinda like it but i’m just not used to it.”
Adam: ”I traveled to a lot of places. Every culture that’s not yours is weird to you but the thing i think is the funniest here is the music and some of the things that are perceived as cool here, are perceived as uncool in the US. ”Give me something” I told Adam. ”Just some of the music that would come up and everyone would get excited and i’m think that if I played this in our bar, everyone would be like ‘Shut if off. Get outta here. Who’s this?’ It’s just little things like that.
Q: Let’s talk Red Star game. Thoughts? Expectations prior to the game? Build up and hype surrouding the game?
Adam: ”My wife, when she was in college, she went to a Boca Juniors game in Buenos Aires. She said that was the scariest day of her life. Because there was a stampede at the stand. There were people who were grabbing and pushing each other and there was a fight. She said they had to put hoses on them to calm them down because that was how much they were going crazy. So that was my expectation. I thought like ”Oh my God.” I mean, I knew we weren’t where the Ultras were but my expectation was that maybe we would be seeing that. The passion was incredible. It’s nothing like the US. No alcohol in the bulding yet they’re still acting like there is and it just shows you how crazy and passionate the fans are.”
On organisation and differences between US and Serbian fans: ”The organisation speaks to the difference between the US and Serbia. In the US, for a playoff game, everybody gets a free t-shirt. You don’t have to even show up wearing a certain colour. It’s given to you and even then, half the people would wear it. Here, everybody brings their own tee…oh, and the chants too.” You could’ve see the dissapointment in his eyes when we started talking about the fans and chanting, so Harrison had to chime in and ease his ‘pain’.
Harrison: ”In the US, the announcers are like ‘Come on everybody”. In the NBA, they have to tell you what and when to chant on the jumbotron and they have to pipe in artificial noise to make it louder and to make people chant.” That’s just plain awful.
Q: Talk to me about Sombor. How was that experience?
Harrison: ”Sombor was one of the highlights of the trip. We taught it was smaller, for sure. But it really reminded us of like a college town, small college town in the States. We saw the pictures and videos of all these things, you know. The horse track, the stables, the mural at Jokić’s school and the City Hall and it looked like this magical, far away place that’s not real. So it was crazy to just go there and experience all those things in reality. And I love Sombor. I feel like I understand Nikola Jokić a lot more since going there 'cause he’s exactly like the town - slow, quiet, peaceful. It’s him.”
Adam: ”To me, i enjoyed the experiences more, so I would say like…eating the food was like...that was like my favorite part of the trip. I always wondered what it tastes like. To be honest, i pictured fish stew being like some simple, basic, flavourless little thing. That restaurant that we went to was a fantastic restaurant. So, that part. Meeting his coach was great bacause for me, that’s like a connection. It’s not just like ‘Oh, here’s the mural’, i’m like actually talking to somebody. And I talked to him for like 30 minutes so I feel like I learned a lot just by talking to him. That was the thing I liked the most.”
Rapid fire questions!
”Do Adam and Harrison like: burek? ” Boys immediately bursted out laughing because they knew Adam had received a ton of, let’s call them ‘complaints’ for his burek comments.
Adam: ”Oh man.” ”But why didnt’ you try the meat burek?, I asked him. ”Blame it on Miroslav”, Harrison added.
Harrison: ”I don’t mind it. It’s not something i’d eat every day but once in a while I wouldn’t mind it.”
”Do Adam and Harrison like: yoghurt?”
Harrison: ”Yoghurt is different here. It’s like more liquidy. Um, it wasn’t that good. I’ll say that. I’m not afraid to say it.”
Adam: ”I didn’t mind it. I don’t think. I just would never wanted it.” Adam then proceeded with the most blasphemous take ever: ”It’s a bad combination with burek”.
Not a good look buddy. You just offended all those 99% percent of Serbs that you said they liked you. Moving on.
Do Adam and Harrison like: rakija, proper rakija?”
Adam: ”To be honest, we had good ones here and bad ones here. And good ones are like really, really good. Bad ones are the same like we’re getting in Denver but the good ones are fantastic.”
Harrison: ”Yeah, I agree. I’d say that part of the appeal of rakija is just the story behind it. And when you’re drinking it out of a plastic water bottle and the guy who gave it to you is like ‘My grandma has been making it for generations and generations’, I love that.”
Adam: ”If you asked me if I would take a 100$ bottle of rakija from the best distillery in Serbia or his grandma’s - the answer would be his grandma’s 100% of the time.”
”Do Adam and Harrison like: fish stew”?
Adam: ”Oh, I swear i’d eat that thing every week. I swear to God, that was a great dish.”
Harrison: ”I thought it was good. ”The bones were weird” Ryan added, to which Adam responded: ”I grew up fishing. My dad loves fishing. So, when we’d catch a fish, we’d wrap it in foil, put it on a fire and you eat it, bones and everything. So i’m used to that.”
”Do Adam and Harrison like: Red Star Belgrade?”
Adam: ”Love it. I honestly didn’t expect to see kids with us. There was like a kid in the front of us. I though it would be like ‘No kids, get outta here’. And I liked that. And the energy and atmosphere were like out of this world.”
Harrison: ”The seating policy is a little questionable. Thought I loved it.”
”Do Adam and Harrison like: David Vujanić?”
Adam: ”Who? Oh, Vuj! Loved him. Loved the guy.”
Harrison: I wasn’t following him but liked him a lot. ”10/10” added Adam.
”Describe Miroslav to me?” I asked and immediately you could’ve seen this massive smile on their faces, followed by big laughter.
Adam: ”Miroslav is…I love people that are characters. Miroslav is a character. So, I love him. He’s a little weird. He’s a little funny.”
Harrison: ”He’s hilarious.”
Adam: ”He doesn’t care if anybody gets his joke or not.”
Harrison: Everything about him is hilarious. The way he walks. The way he drives.” Everybody started laughing after that, so I had to ask why. Ryan just said ”He’s a terrible driver” to which Adam chimed in with ”I can’t explain it but he drives the way he walks:” Boys started laughing uncontrollably following that comment.
Harrison: ”But i have to say that him and Milan, and you too btw. You guys were amazing. You have been showing us around. They drove us to freakin’ Sombor and stayed with us and drove us back. Like are you kididng?! They took time of their work to spend it with us. Incredible. It was really a special thing.
The second part where we talked Nikola Jokić, Serbian basketball, Calvin Booth-Tim Connely and Nuggets in the 2022-23 season is coming out next week. Stay tuned!