The Denver Nuggets drafted former Miami Hurricane Bones Hyland with the 29th pick in the NBA Draft. The move reunited him with his coach, who saved his life during a firefighting internship in 2014. His story is one of many that illustrates how sports teams and organizations are embracing social causes to drive fan engagement and outreach..

The Denver Nuggets were playing the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night. The game was close and a key moment in the game came when the Nuggets made a three-pointer to take the lead. However, they could not hold it and the Bucks tied it up. Then, with less than two minutes left, the Bucks took a lead that would not be relinquished. The Nuggets had no choice but to foul. In crunch time, their best player did not let them down and hit two free throws with one second left to win the game.

Bones Hyland, with firefighters who saved his life in stands, keys Denver Nuggets' win

12:00:42 A.M. ET

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    ESPN’s Tim Bontemps

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Bones Hyland’s basketball career may have ended before it began almost four years ago today, when he was forced to dive out the second-story window of his Wilmington, Delaware, house as it was engulfed in flames, damaging his right knee.

Instead, Hyland and the firemen and first responders who helped save his life that day have formed a friendship since then. Those same Wilmington firemen were on hand Monday night, along with several hundred friends and family members, to witness Hyland make his NBA debut.

They not only got to witness the Denver Nuggets rookie play, but they also got to see him steal the stage from NBA MVP frontrunners Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid, who were the main attractions heading into Monday’s game.

Hyland scored 21 points overall and four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 115-110 win against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center.

“I put a cross over my chest every time I check into the game just to be appreciative that I’m still in this position to play basketball because doctors told me four years ago I’d never play basketball again,” Hyland said after helping Denver overcome a 19-point deficit to win. “So I give thanks to the Lord for keeping me here and keeping me going.” That’s something I strive for every day.

“I strive to always be myself and go out there and play with fun and flair.”

Hyland was on fire in the fourth quarter for Denver (41-28), hitting all four of his triples as he helped Denver outscore Philadelphia 33-22 in the fourth quarter to turn the game around and win.

Denver selected Hyland with the 26th selection in the 2021 NBA draft out of VCU, and he was making his NBA debut in the city closest to his birthplace of Wilmington. Several hundred people came out to watch Hyland perform at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night to commemorate the milestone, with Hyland estimating 600-700 in attendance.

He made sure to put on a show for them, hitting three consecutive triples to put Denver up halfway through the fourth — only to smash another three with 1:51 left in the fourth that proved to be the shot that put the Nuggets ahead for good.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone stated, “Our bench was amazing.” “I believe Bones Hyland had 500 people representing his hometown tonight, and he went all out.”

Members of the fire department who helped save his life on March 25, 2018, when a fire destroyed his house and killed his grandmother and younger cousin were among the few hundred people at the arena Monday night. They gave him a bespoke Wilmington Fire Department jacket before the game.

When Hyland was asked how much it meant to him to be able to maintain that relationship over the previous several years, he requested to go on to the next topic and, after attempting to calm himself for a bit, just laid his head down and cried for a long time.

He expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to not only play in front of so many friends and family members, but also for the sort of performance he put in to help Denver win.

“It’s a dream come true for me to come back to my hometown, which is just 30 minutes away from my city, and put on a concert here,” Hyland remarked. “As I usually say, I’m a city kid who wants to teach the next generation of city kids that they, too, can be in my shoes. I never had somebody to teach me the ropes and provide advice when I was younger, so I want to be that man for the younger children and continue to lead and guide them.”

He demonstrated Monday night that he could help boost Denver’s bench unit, leading the Nuggets to a come-from-behind win and stopping a two-game losing skid. And, according to Hyland, he had a sense those big-time shots would arrive down the stretch before he could let them fly.

He smiled as he remarked, “I just knew I was going to get hot and hit a few bombs.” “‘I know I’m going to hit it,’ I kept telling myself. I’m sure I’ll get it.’ And I had two chances where I was wide open, and I hit one, and there was one in transition, and I was like, ‘I’m letting this one fly,’ and it was bottoms.”

Finally, Hyland expressed gratitude for the opportunity to continue to serve as a role model and a symbol for what Wilmington youth may become. He stated he didn’t have somebody like that to look up to when he was younger.

But, after a storied career at VCU, where he was the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year last season before entering the draft, and a promising start to his NBA career as a rookie this season, he said he intends to have that sort of presence for everyone in his city going forward.

“That’s amazing, honestly,” Hyland remarked. “Just for them to come up here shows the support system, and it gives me support.” “It’s a huge one.” It’s not something I take for granted since not everyone has a large support network. They came and traveled all the way to summer league, and they even drove to Vegas to cheer me on.

“When you do well for others, you will get good in return. I’m a pretty modest young man. My city is tattooed on my forearm, and I’ll always wear it. I want to be a part of something greater than myself.”

Bones Hyland is a former professional basketball player for the Denver Nuggets. He was born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. His father played college basketball at Eastern Michigan University. The “where is bones hyland from” is a question that many people ask about him.

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