Fundamental study of enzymatic nucleoside transport suffers for lack of optical probes that can be tracked noninvasively. Nucleoside transporters are integral membrane glycoproteins that mediate the salvage of nucleosides and their passage across cell membranes. The substrate recognition site is the deoxyribose sugar, often with little distinction among nucleobases. Reported here are nucleoside analogues in which emissive, cyclometalated iridium(III) complexes are “clicked” to C-1 of deoxyribose in place of canonical nucleobases. The resulting complexes show visible luminescence at room temperature and 77 K with microsecond-length triplet lifetimes. A representative complex is crystallographically characterized. Transport and luminescence are demonstrated in cultured human carcinoma (KB3-1) cells.