Aaron Gordon’s basketball ‘sanctuary’ helped the Denver Nuggets to an NBA championship — Andscape
MONTBELLO, Colo. – From a young Barack Obama to Albert Einstein to Lauryn Hill to Maya Angelou, many supersized motivational murals hang above a replica NBA half court Aaron Gordon calls his basketball “sanctuary.” Also hanging inside his unique warehouse home is a 2023 NBA Western Conference finals banner that motivated the Denver Nuggets forward even more.
On Monday night, Gordon earned to right to upgrade to a 2023 NBA championship banner, as his Nuggets won their first title since joining the league in 1976. In Game 5 of the 2023 NBA Finals, the Nuggets defeated the Miami Heat 94-89 at Ball Arena to win the best-of-seven series 4-1.
An emotional Gordon tried his best to explain what it was like to finally be a champion in his ninth NBA season.
“This feeling is way more than I expected. This is crazy. I can’t even give you an example right now of what it means,” Gordon said to Andscape after finishing the historic night with four points, seven rebounds, two steals and a block in 29 foul-plagued minutes.
Looking back on this championship season, Gordon credited his relatively new home in helping him push his game and focus to the highest level.
Gordon began his NBA career with the Orlando Magic from 2014 to 2021. The Denver portion of his NBA career arrived when he and Gary Clark were traded from Orlando on March 25, 2021, for Gary Harris, RJ Hampton and a 2025 first-round pick. While in Orlando, Gordon started telling his longtime agent Calvin Andrews, family and close friends that he truly wanted to build a home with a half court, a weight room and other training facilities so he could workout anytime with no excuses. Initially, many aware of Gordon’s grand idea thought it was an outlandish one.
“I absolutely thought he was crazy for this idea. We tried to talk him out of it,” Andrews told Andscape.
Gordon fell in love with Denver shortly after the trade. He already owns multiple properties and is considering making it a longterm home. The San Jose, California, native finally got his idea for a home gym in motion with the aid of Bay Area contractor Eddie Snelgro.
Gordon purchased an old warehouse to renovate in a very nondescript, industrial Eastern Denver neighborhood. Snelgro redeveloped the warehouse into a two-story home with a master bedroom, guest bedroom, new floors and a staircase. There is an NBA regulation half court, a sauna, cold and hot tubs built into the floor, a complete weight room moved from his Orlando home, exercise bike and more.
“Instead of buying a house and having a problem with any of the neighbors with noise or anything like that, he decided to go to the warehouse and build out,” Snelgro, owner of Snelgro Property Development, told Andscape. “It’s like the fun palace. He wanted to be focused and be able to practice at any time that he wants instead of having to go to a facility. Just get up, walk right out of his closet and put up shots.”
Gordon’s warehouse home has a full kitchen with a dining room, a large bar/kitchenette and a garage area with an Aston Martin. A game room with a pool table and a vintage car add to the vibe. There are also plans for a library since Gordon is an avid reader. His AG logo is on the court as well as camouflage — a salute to his days with the AAU Oakland Soldiers. The security system with cameras everywhere is akin to what corporate offices use.
The basketball portion of the warehouse was completed last summer. Gordon recently acquired the needed licenses to live there full-time, too, according to Snelgro.
“I was actually trying to do that all the way back in Orlando,” Gordon told Andscape. “I was trying to go get a warehouse and trick that s— out. Put a half court in it. And then I got traded. I was looking for a place as soon as I got to Denver…
“We just got it finished up recently. I moved in a couple weeks ago. It’s fire. It’s fire as [expletive]. It’s a dream. It’s ridiculous.”
Said Nuggets forward Michael Porter, Jr.: “I need to see the finished product of the gym. I got to come over there.”
Gordon was humiliated after the Golden State Warriors eliminated the Nuggets in the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs in five games about 40 miles from where he grew up in San Jose. As the Warriors went on to become 2022 NBA champions, Gordon had a different motivation since entering the league in 2014.
“He literally built himself a gym in Denver,” Elise Gordon, Aaron Gordon’s sister, told Andscape. “He’s living in the gym now and he’s got his own workout facility. In fact, he was declining to like go out after games and stuff like that because he’s locked in. He wanted to take care of his body, his mental, his physical.”
Tim Kennedy, Gordon’s coach at San Jose Archbishop Mitty High School, said: “Aaron was locked in. I never saw him in San Jose last summer.”
Gordon spent most of his offseason in Denver working out at his warehouse in the challenging 5,280-foot altitude. Gordon’s brother, Drew; his sister; his parents and Andrews all sensed a different commitment from the 27-year-old to be great. The Nuggets players and coaches have taken part in workouts at the warehouse. Even Los Angeles Clippers star forward Kawhi Leonard came to the Mile High City to work out there and asked that the air conditioning not be turned on.
“Denver is the best place in the world to go workout,” Aaron Gordon said after winning the Western Conference finals on May 22. “Colorado? We’re not tired. Them Miami boys are probably going to come early [due to the altitude] to train. But they’re going to still going to be cooked that first game.”
What stands out most in Gordon’s already one-of-a-kind warehouse gym home are the celebrity icons from different genres. Many are no longer with us. Gordon chose each specifically for daily motivation.
A young Obama smoking marijuana. Einstein. Athletes including Serena Williams, Muhammad Ali, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Tony Hawk, Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Pele, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and Jackie Robinson. Dancer Josephine Baker. Actor and martial arts legend Bruce Lee. Musicians Billie Holliday, Prince, Lauryn Hill, Miles Davis, Bob Marley, Jimmy Hendrix, B.B. King, Notorious B.I.G., Nipsey Hussle, Michael Jackson and Mac Miller. Olympic activists John Carlos and Tommie Smith. Comedian Richard Pryor. Actor Heath Ledger. Civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. Civil rights activist and Muslim minister Malcolm X. Filmmaker Spike Lee. Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Antiapartheid activist Nelson Mandela. Legendary sports journalist Stuart Scott. Poet Maya Angelou.
“I got everybody there from Muhammad Ali to Bruce Lee,” Aaron Gordon said. “You have greatness looking at you. You can’t be [joking around]. It makes you want to not bulls—.”
Said Elise Gordon: “He has all the greats on the wall to keep him motivated.”
In his best season with the Nuggets, Gordon’s warehouse work paid off as he averaged 16.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3 assists during the regular season. The 6-foot-8, 235-pounder was disappointed not to be named a first-time NBA All-Star despite the Nuggets having the best record in the Western Conference. But Gordon showed his ability to be a team player by accepting a complimentary role behind NBA Finals MVP Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Gordon also proved to be the Nuggets’ defensive MVP in the postseason, guarding the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Jimmy Butler.
After Gordon and the Nuggets officially became champions, he was crying tears of joy and smiling a mile high. All the hard work paid off.
The buzzer sounded and he shared a group hug with Porter Jr. and Murray. With a NBA championship T-shirt on, an emotional Gordon kissed veteran teammate Jeff Green on the head after a long embrace. He enjoyed a long hug with Nuggets head coach Michael Malone, and embraced all his family members and partners in attendance — Andrews, Snelgro, Kennedy, business advisor Joe McLean, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul and COO Fara Leff. Gordon told his young nephew they were champions.
And after leaving the Ball Arena floor to a celebratory locker room with champagne flying everywhere, Gordon reflected on his basketball journey.
“I feel elation,” he said. “There is champagne burning in my eyes, but I love it. I’ve thought about growing up, my whole life really, all those early mornings, how much I’ve given to this game. And it gave it right back. It gave it right back.”