The Dallas Mavericks winning the 2011 title should not have happened.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, predicted Dallas to win the NBA title this year. Not one “expert” was on board with something that preposterous.
Yet here we are, and Dallas has just finished shocking the basketball world. The only annoying part about this victory is that the immediate reaction has been less about Dallas, and more about the Heat losing, which is both sad and unfair.
As such, I’ll focus this post on praising the players that played a vital role in the Mavericks securing their first NBA title. I will also throw some shots at the Heat, because that always fun to do.
As Jason Whitlock summed it up: “Not 8, not 7, not 6, not 5, not 4, not 3, not 2… There is only one NBA champion. The Dallas Mavericks.”
- Dirk Nowitzki: The Superstar
Dirty Dirk! You thought he’d be terrible all game long?
He started off having an eerily similar performance to that of Kobe Bryant in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals, but like Kobe before him, he came through down the stretch to help his team in whatever way he could. The shots he started hitting in the second half were just unbelievable, and I’ve never been so happy to see a player other than Kobe himself (in 2009, his first one post-Shaq) win a ring. Dirk’s been through many ups and downs, and I’ve always found the criticism on him to be unfair. Hell, I criticized him for being “soft” plenty of times, but he is tough as nails mentally – I wish I could say the same for the Heat players.
Though he doesn’t carry the same bravado that other superstars do (can you imagine Garnett or Barkley getting punked on like this?), I understand now that he’s beyond that. He’s like Steve Nash in the sense that the game is mainly cerebral, and the tough talk and bravado
(which is more cultural in the NBA than it is a necessity) is not needed for him to be successful. Also, how he left for the locker room as the game ended was one of the most genuine displays of emotion after a Finals win that I’ve ever seen.
Bill Simmons made a point that if Lebron were to have won, he likely would have milked it at half-court for the world to see his triumph. He did it in the Celtics series and that was in the second round. In moments like yesterday’s, you truly understand that in Dirk’s case, winning the NBA Finals is not a means to an end like it is for Lebron (more fame, more branding) . Rather, it’s the end in itself, something that he wanted to accomplish because of his love for the game that he’s worked so tirelessly at.
[Note: I don’t doubt that Lebron loves the game of basketball or that he works hard at it. Mentally however, Lebron folds when the going gets tough because he’s never once had to battle back from adversity. If you noticed in the Chicago and Boston series, Lebron rose when his team was already ahead or had the momentum. In the Finals, with Dallas having had the upper hand in most of the games and Lebron needing to rise to the occasion, he slunk away, unsure of how to play in such a big moment. He did the same thing in last year’s semi-finals with the Celtics. This is a kid who had a 100 million dollar shoe contract before he played a single game in the NBA. Looking at players like Bryant, Garnett, Dirk, etc, you realize that each of them had to prove they belonged in this league – they weren’t given the keys to a franchise right off the bat. Lebron has been handed the keys to drive since he was 18 years old. Learning from failure and humility are not a part of his identity, and they likely never will be because he’s always gotten what he was handed, and nobody has ever told him otherwise.
He will never get it (true humility, the sorrow of failure), even when he wins, and that much was clear from his post game press conference where he essentially mocked “haters” for our pathetic lives in comparison to his. That’s one way to be a global brand! Back to Dirk.]
Add in the fact that Dirk’s been mocked by Wade & LePippen, not to mention people calling him soft for the 2006 loss and the 2007 shock, and you have the makings of one of the most resilient players from the 2000s generation of players (sorry, the list does not include Big Dog Robinson). With this win, Dirk officially joined the top of the post 90s draft class that ruled the 2000s (other players being Bryant, Shaq, Duncan, and Garnett) and solidified his place in the pantheon of greats.
Dirktastic Tidbit: This picture, and all of its glory. Germans and Canadians don’t play when it comes to drinking.
2. Jason Kidd: The veteran warrior
His impact on Game 6 was not as great as that of Jet, or even Barea, but Jason Kidd was instrumental during this Mavericks run, and like Dirk, I was delighted to see him succeed. I always admired Jason Kidd growing up, from his Eminem-hair’d days in Phoenix to his
transformation of the 2002 and 2003 Nets teams. I’ve always felt he’s gotten the short end of the stick in terms of accolades. Though Duncan was an excellent candidate, that 2002 MVP trophy belonged to Kidd for taking almost the same team that Stephon Marbury lead to obscurity and somehow catapulting them to two consecutive NBA Finals, as well 3 straight Eastern Conference Finals appearances. Yes, Kidd was Steve Nash on the D’Antoni Suns before Steve Nash was Steve Nash (get it?). Yet, when you ask fans nowadays, a lot of them forget about Kidd’s success with the Nets.
In light of Kidd winning his first ring in 17 years, here is Jason Kidd’s classic free throw shooting routine.
3. JT, Barea, Cardinal: The role players
I thought all three of these guys were the difference makers in Game 6, especially Barea. I’m still trying to wrap my head around a guy who’s around my height playing that fearlessly around players who are a foot taller. Hell, he was guarding Lebron on the elbow at one point (of course, Lebron turned it over) and didn’t back down from the challenge. I came out of this series having much more respect for all three players, especially Cardinal and Barea. Jason Terry – he of the overly ambitious pre-season tattoo – looks like a genius right about now, and played the game of his life. Plenty of swag points for all.
4. God – The sixth man
We all thought JT was the sixth man of the Mavs this whole time, but it seems to be just an illusion. Jason Terry himself mentioned that the Mavericks won because of a player named “God” (no last name given) on about five separate occasions in his post game interviews. Lebron likewise asserted that
this player named “God” was the reason he lost since it was “not his time yet”. I swear I watched the entire game, and this sixth man was nowhere to be seen.
And just to make it clear, it was not the zone defense, passiveness, or a lack of a post game that lead to Lebron’s failures – IT WAS GOD. After all, he is the Chosen One (or is it the Frozen One when it comes to the 4th quarter?).
5. Mahinmi: The Sasha Vujacic award recipient
Apologies to The Machine, but I just wanted to put Mahinmi here so I could link to this song in my post. Seriously, everytime I heard his name, that artist name was all that came to my mind. Looking back, that wasn’t even the artist’s name! Oh well. Mahinmi also had a killer off-balance one-leg-kick shot in the 3rd quarter, which I can only assume was learned from Dirty Dirk.
6. Miami Heat fans – The Benchwarmers
Good job on bolting for the exits (in search for your car) with 2 minutes left in the game and your team with a reasonable chance at still making it a game. Now THOSE are true fans. Who said they hopped on a bandwagon?
7. Deshawn Stevenson: The guy who hated Lebron before it was cool to hate Lebron
I’ll just let his t-shirt speak for him: