Suspended Thomas Bryant gets ring from Nuggets, then exits

DENVER -- Suspended Miami Heat center Thomas Bryant received a group hug from his former Denver Nuggets teammates and a glittering championship ring before promptly leaving the arena.

After all, rules are rules.

The NBA made an allowance for Bryant to be on hand before the game because it was the Heat's only visit this season to Denver. Suspended players are typically not allowed to be at the arena on game nights.

The Nuggets rolled out the red carpet for Bryant, who was with them last June when they beat the Heat in five games to capture the franchise's first NBA title.

Bryant watched a video tribute on the big screen next to Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon, then received a warm embrace from guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who also handed Bryant his shiny ring. Bryant was engulfed at half court by Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets.

Bryant soaked in the moment as he slipped the ring onto his hand. He tapped at his heart in appreciation as the crowd cheered.

"It's just a way of thanking him for all his contributions," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said of the ceremony before Denver's 103-97 win. "Great to see Thomas -- haven't seen him obviously since we won it all last June."

Right after the ring ceremony, Bryant exited the building. He was wrapping up a three-game suspension for his involvement in an altercation against the New Orleans Pelicans last week.

Bryant played sparingly for Denver after being acquired in February 2023 from the Los Angeles Lakers as part of a four-team trade. He played only briefly in one postseason game during Denver's run.

The Nuggets handed out their championship rings Oct. 24, before playing their first game of the season against LeBron James and the Lakers. The team has honored other players on last year's championship roster who made a return to the Mile High City with their new team. It's a list that included Bruce Brown, Ish Smith and Jeff Green.

Bryant signed with the Heat as a free agent over the summer. He's averaging 4.2 points and 3.1 rebounds over 25 games for Miami.