A 12-Pack of Stories from a Lifelong Dallas Mavericks Fan

Paden FallisGuest ColumnistMarch 21, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12:  Bill Russell presents the Bill Russell Finals MVP trophy to Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks after the Mavericks won 105-95 in Game Six of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 12, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Dirk Nowitzki is no better than a third option!

Chapter Six

“Dirk Nowitzki is no better than a third option!”

OK, pause.

To the uninitiated, here is an example of the pecking order for big time, crunch time NBA basketball: Jordan-era Chicago Bulls.  Michael Jordan is the classic example of your primary scorer, while Scottie Pippen follows as your second option and then Toni Kukoc your third. 

Or let’s put this in a 1980s Dallas Mavericks framework.  In the half court, with the game on the line, you look for Mark Aguirre first.  But as Aguirre gets the ball on the block and the defense doubles down, you swing the ball around the perimeter to find Rolando Blackman.  But if Blackman can’t get a clean look, then and only then do you pass the ball to Derek Harper at the top of the key.  Derek Harper is the No. 3 in this scenario.

OK, flash back to the present.  No, not present.  Not present at all. 

Flash back to 2007, directly after the Mavs' epic meltdown to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.  I was accosted by a Miami Heat fan (naturally, a Heat fan) in New York, where I lived.  This fan was eager to pile on a Mavs fan’s plight and let me know exactly what he thought of our star player.

“Dirk Nowitzki is no better than a third option!”

This guy was persistent.  He really wanted to drive home his point.  He really wanted to put a despondent Mavs fan in his place. 

He was possibly drunk, but he was certainly bug-eyed, sweating profusely and frothing at the mouth.  Like I said, a Heat fan.

“Dirk Nowitzki is no better than a – “

“Yeah, Yeah.  Roger that,” I said, unable or too frustrated to argue.


Let me share with you an example of just how linear I can be.

By my logic there must be no fewer than 30 first options in the NBA by benefit of the fact that there are 30 teams in the league. 

If you don’t want to go with me on this premise, you can stop reading now.

I looked at the 2006-07 season.  The Memphis Grizzlies, with 22 wins, had the worst record.  Their leading scorer and No. 1 option was Pau Gasol.  Their No. 2 option was Mike Miller.  Their No. 3 option was Chucky Atkins. 

So if I carry this premise through, Dirk Nowitzki is no better than Mike Miller and somewhere on par with the great Chucky Atkins (and I have no axe to grind with Atkins). 

Or if we look at the best team that year, it would have been the—yep, Dallas Mavericks at 67 wins.  Our third option was The Jet—Jason Terry.  Dirk Nowitzki was no better than, and totally equivalent to Jet Terry.  After all, Dirk is no better than a third option. 

Got it?

I’m not here to denigrate the careers of Chucky Atkins or Jet Terry (more on him in a future story).  Any current Mavs fan is familiar with the game of Terry, a streak shooter to the nth degree, but a guy who has been critical to the Mavs' success over the years.

Atkins?  Let’s see here: an undrafted free agent who played for eight teams in 10 years and maintained a respectable average of 10 points a game over his career.  Not bad for an undrafted free agent.  But it’s hard for me to see either Terry or Atkins on the same level as the greatest shooting seven-footer this world has ever seen. 

Sometimes I like to think of these two men taking on Dirk in a one-on-one contest. 

Maybe Atkins could break Dirk down with his average crossover and so-so mid-range game.  Maybe Jet would be hitting from both corners with amazing accuracy.  Maybe Atkins would get to the rim with ease and finish with thundering dunks and maybe Terry would also get into the lane at will and rain teardrop runners on Dirk all day long.  Maybe Chucky Atkins, Jet Terry and Dirk Nowitzki are one in the same.  You know, third options.

However, I kind of feel that the greatest European the NBA has ever seen would have some marginal advantages.  He might be able to back these two guys down, shooting the one-legged fade-away over top of them.  Then he might be able to go out to the three-point line at the top of the key and drain a few of those.  He could possibly get to his sweet spots on the wing and at the foul line and muscle them into the paint, easily shooting over them.  Then maybe, just maybe, he would take them into the post, spin baseline and throw down a dunk or two.

You know, do to these guys what a true No. 1 option would.  Totally Freaking Dominate.

But this fantasy one-on-one world is, of course, not the real world.  No, in the real world, Dirk would get his say four years after the meltdown to Golden State.  That’s when a guy who is apparently no better than a third option was able to lead his team past a certain team in southern Florida who was blessed enough to enjoy three dominant and otherworldly first options.

So, lets hear it for Dirk Nowitzki.  The greatest third option the world has ever seen! 

Somewhere in Miami, I have a feeling that a beer-logged, sweaty, bug-eyed, frothing man is still sticking to his guns.