Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James Are Alike in Destiny, Destined To Be Together?

Alex McVeighSenior Analyst IJune 1, 2010

DENVER - FEBRUARY 20:   LeBron James #23 of the Eastern Conference All-Stars goes up for a shot over Rashard Lewis #7 and Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Western Conference All-Stars during the 54th All-Star Game, part of 2005 NBA All-Star Weekend at Pepsi Center on February 20, 2005 in Denver, Colorado.  The East won 125-115.  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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

You probably read that headline and said "Whatchu talkin' 'bout Alex?" At least I'd like to think you people aren't all dead inside and would pay the late Gary Coleman a tribute. 

How on earth are LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki alike? After all, one was in the spotlight when he was in high school and has already spent a decade being hyped as the future of basketball. 

The other grew up in Germany, unknown to the basketball world until the 1998 Nike Hoop Summit where he dropped 33 points (on 12 shots!), 12 rebounds and 3 steals against some of the best American high schoolers in the country.

Don Nelson took a gamble on him and it paid off, though it took Dirk close to a decade to even become a household name. 

But Lebron and Dirk do have quite a bit in common:

Both are 0-1 in the Finals.

Both haven't shown to their increasing legion of critics that they can be the best player on a championship team.

Both could be switching teams this summer. 

Both are surrounded by teams that should be good on paper, but let them down in the playoffs. 

Let's take a closer look at some of the ways the two superstars are similar. 

Under-sized, under-performing, misplaced shooting guards

I still have not gotten a definitive answer on this question: Are we sure that Mo Williams and Jason Terry are two separate people?

They are both undersized shooting guards who have played at point guard (luckily for Terry, he has been moved to his natural position). They're big energy guys who connect with their fans and teammates on a different level than most players. 

But both are almost exclusively jump shooters, and hot-and-cold ones at that. They are capable of dropping 30 on any given night, but are also prone to those 2-for-14 performances that tend to come up in crucial playoff games. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big Terry and Mo Williams fan, and I think they've done great things for their teams. But they aren't meant to be second or third bananas on championship contenders. 

The problem for the Mavs and the Cavs in the playoffs have been this: the role players don't deliver. 

Dirk and LeBron are capable of winning two games in a series with superstar performances, LeBron possibly three (though not this year). 

Terry and Mo Williams are capable of winning maybe a game during a series, or at least giving them a push that helps them win the games. 

Neither team has a reliable second guy who can be counted on to win a game for you in the playoffs.

Kobe has Pau as a second, Artest as a third and Fisher to knock in some clutch baskets. 

Rondo (who has been the Celtics' best player this playoffs) has Pierce or Garnett as a second, Allen as a third, and a bench where Nate Robinson, Rasheed Wallace or Big Baby can provide a spark. 

Dallas tried with Caron Butler and failed. The Cavs tried with Shaq and failed. If Terry and Mo are your third options, you can be alright, but when they're consistently your second option, you're not going to win a second or third round series. 

2004: The sidekick bolts for greener pastures

In the summer of 2004, both players lost a sidekick, a player who evolved into the perfect compliment for Dirk or LeBron, albeit on another team. 

For Dirk, it was Steve Nash who was offered a massive deal by the Phoenix Suns. When Mark Cuban decided not to match the offer, off Nash went into the sun set, pardon the pun. 

While in the Valley of the Sun, Steve Nash became a team leader capable of taking his team deep into the playoffs and absorbing countless amounts of punishment - all while winning two straight MVPs. 

Dirk, while he has had more playoff success, did it with the likes of Devin Harris and Jason Terry running point. Sure, they can score, but they don't possess the brilliant court vision and shooting touch of a Steve Nash.

LeBron lost a frontcourt mate in Carlos Boozer. Boozer, who was way outperforming his $695,000 contract in 2004, was offered a good-faith chance to sign a better deal with the Cavs after they didn't pick up his option. Instead, he bolted to Utah for about $30 million more. 

(And just an FYI, despite Boozer's protestations to the contrary, there's no question Boozer stabbed them in the back. Why on earth would the Cavs let a productive power forward making a little more than half a million dollars out of his contract unless they had some sort of agreement to keep him?)

Boozer evolved into a monster down low - who could hit a baseline jumper once in a while, and provide a solid low-post option down low - something the Cavs do not get with Antawn Jamison or JJ Hickson. 

Boozer and James could have been a feared duo, if just for their physical prowess. Those two are simply monsters. A small-ball lineup with Boozer at the 5 and LeBron at the 4 would really strike fear into a lot of frontcourts, especially other undersized ones. 

2010: The addition of an All-Star Wizards forward

This season around the All-Star break, two Wizards forwards were traded: One to play small forward alongside Dirk, the other to play power forward alongside LeBron. 

Both were said to be the missing pieces for a championship run, though neither helped matters.

Caron Butler stopped every possession he was on. While he had one good game against the Spurs, he was also benched in the second half of a game. 

Antawn Jamison was beaten and abused by Kevin Garnett (as he rightly should have) and missed the chance for the Cavaliers to bounce back in game two of the Celtics series by missing a wide-open three at the top of the arc. 

Both players were supposed to be motivated by their exit from a terrible situation, but they brought some baggage with them, resulting in their teams bowing out one round earlier than the year before. 

Jamison and Butler were also added to teams where there was already a glut of players at the position. 

The Mavs had Shawn Marion already at small forward, and Jason Terry and Rodrigue Beaubois waiting in the wings for the shooting guard spot. Marion was a great player for the Mavs this year. He guarded the other team's best player and he never got plays drawn up for him, managing to contribute through a lot of hustle plays. 

The Cavs already had Anderson Varejao (more consistent jump shooter than Jamison, better defender) and JJ Hickson (a project, but one who proved to be effective in limited minutes).

The Cavs didn't even lose Varejao or Hickson in the Wizards deal, so the backlog was even more glaring. 

Addition of an overrated center

To replace the departed Nash, the Mavericks spent their money on Erick Dampier, a free agent from the Golden State Warriors

Dampier was coming off of a great year, and was one of the more coveted free agents in that class. 

While he has been a decent enough center, he hasn't been consistent enough to really make a difference from day-to-day, and he certainly hasn't played up to the massive contract handed out. 

He is only effective when paired with another decent center, so he can afford to foul a bit more, but he can't finish that well around the rim, and his hands might as well be bowling balls. 

LeBron has had to deal with two centers who were past their prime in Ben Wallace and Shaquille O'Neal. I was at first excited about the Wallace trade, figuring that with LeBron and Zyndrunas Ilgauskas out there, they wouldn't need much offense from Wallace, he could just defend and rebounding, creating extra possessions. Boy, was I wrong. 

Same with Shaq. When he did play, he clogged up the lane and trash-talked. When he didn't, the Cavs ran an effective small-ball lineup that was a matchup nightmare for teams. 

As forwards, both Dirk and LeBron need to have a good center around to create space for them and back them up on the offensive end. Both players have been told that Dampier/Wallace/Shaq was that player, but both players are still searching for that special someone. 

Could that special someone be each other?

I'm gonna go ahead and say it. Dirk and LeBron would be perfect compliments to one another. 

Everyone was gaga about the possibilities of Antawn Jamison stretching the floor for LeBron, thinking about his good shooting stroke and ability to score in a multitude of ways. 

And then we remembered (except for the Wizards fans, who knew it the whole time): Jamison is not clutch in the least, he doesn't play good defense, especially against bigger power forwards and his shot selection is downright terrible. 

Jamison's signature shot from his time in DC was the foot-on-the-three-point-line, opponents-hand-in-his-face jumper with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. And while he got pretty consistent with that little floater in the playoffs, it wasn't nearly enough. 

Dirk, on the other hand, would solve all those problems. We know he's clutch, he's among the most clutch in the game, one might even call him the clutchiest clutch to ever clutch. I know I would. 

He will space the floor much better, since he is literally a threat from everywhere. He's not small like Jamison, so he won't give up a size advantage like Jamison, and while he's no defensive world-beater, he's competent enough where it's not a glaring hole. 

Now if I were LeBron, would I stay in Cleveland, where the latest incarnation of JayMo TerrWilliams is a starting PG, or a sixth man. Where my power forward is a hall of famer still in his prime, or a Sideshow Bob lookalike?

Where you have another hall of famer running your offense like a well-oiled machine, a defensive ace and hustle guy in Shawn Marion and a sophomore phenom with unlimited potential waiting for a breakout year, or another year where you're passing to an open Anthony Parker or Jamario Moon?

Sure, maybe Dirk could find his way to Cleveland, but we've already got a spot for you in Dallas, Bron Bron, and the championships are waiting. 


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