Nuggets announcer/chaplain Kyle Speller focused on 'audience of One' in NBA Finals

Kyle Speller moved to Denver from Brooklyn, N.Y., as an 8-year-old with his mother in 1979, and immediately became a Nuggets fan. The franchise had just joined the NBA three years earlier, and actually made it as far as the Western Conference Finals in 1978. As Speller settled into his new hometown, his new team remained a consistent playoff squad throughout the 1980s.

It never did make it to the NBA Finals, though.

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Speller played the game himself, which took him to Eastern Wyoming Junior College, and two years later to Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado. While in junior college, Speller and one of his good friends would often talk about getting older and watching NBA games.

“I want to have a courtside seat at the Nuggets games,” they’d say.

On Thursday, for the first NBA Finals game in Nuggets franchise history, Speller was right there courtside witnessing Denver’s 104-93 win. He wasn’t just watching, though, he was working. He’s now in his 18th season as the team’s public address announcer.

“I’ve been dreaming about this for years,” he said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast this week, prior to Game 1.

Speller, however, actually has NBA Finals experience. He was one of four announcers called into the NBA bubble in Orlando to finish the 2019-20 season amid the COVID pandemic. He represented many teams as the season played out, but was the announcer for Denver’s home games when it advanced to the Western Conference Finals, where the Nuggets lost to the Lakers in five games.

Though his team went home, Speller stayed and was assigned to the Miami Heat for the NBA Finals. The Heat, of course, is Denver’s opponent in this year’s Finals.

After calling the last game of that 2019-20 season, Speller took home some of the confetti that celebrated the Lakers being crowned as champions. The pieces were in the shape of the Larry O’Brien trophy, which his awarded to each NBA champion. Speller said he showed a piece of confetti to some of the Nuggets earlier this season, and told them, “Let’s go get it.”

He knows some of the Nuggets players well because he also serves as the team’s chaplain, a role he’s held for the past 16 years. It’s a volunteer role because Speller doesn’t want money to get in the way of what the Lord has called him to do.

As chaplain, Speller gives a message during a 15-minute chapel service held one hour before every game. In the NBA, players and coaches from both teams are welcome, meaning some Heat and Nuggets players joined together in a quiet room down the hall from their opposing locker rooms at Ball Arena on Thursday night, and listened to Speller share what God had put on his heart.

He told Sports Spectrum earlier this week that he thought his message to the players before Game 1 would be about doing God’s will and how we always want more of God’s presence in our lives, but we’re not always willing to pay the price to get it.

“A lot of times we want to do God’s will, but then adversity comes so we start to do things our way,” Speller said. “Obedience is better than sacrifice, [that] is what the Word says. If it’s not God’s way, then are we actually in His will?”

However, Speller many times has had a message prepared for chapel, only to scrap it at the last minute because the Lord put something else on his heart.

“I’m always praying, ‘Lord, what would You have me share in that period of time?’ And I can’t tell you how many times, like almost every single time I’m doing a chapel, I’ll prepare a message but God will flip it [while I’m] driving into the arena.” Speller said. “The Holy Spirit will just drop something into my spirit. I’m constantly telling the guys, ‘I had this ready, but this is something the Lord placed on my heart, so I’m going to just go with this.’ And that’s the way I’ve been operating this entire time.”

For much of the second half of this season, the main topic the Lord laid on Speller’s heart was to do everything for an audience of One.

“To do any and everything for an audience of One, so that took on different directions. … There are people within [the players’] realm of influence, maybe one individual that’s there, that needs whatever it is that they’re showing. Just doing everything for an audience of One,” Speller said.

It’s a message Speller aims to live out as well. He’s one of only 30 people in the world who get to be a PA announcer for NBA games, and in an even more select group who also get to be a team chaplain. He’s been a Nuggets fan for more than 40 years, and has a courtside seat for every home game, now including the NBA Finals.

A sell-out crowd of 19,528 people attended Thursday’s Game 1, and Speller was the man hyping them up. But his focus, as always, was just on the audience of One.

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