Since Day 1 of the NBA playoffs, fans and analysts doubted the Mavericks. Many believed that the Portland Trailblazers would beat the Mavs. After Game 4 of the first round, it seemed like that would be the case after the Mavs gave up a 20-point lead and lost. The same criticism of Dirk Nowitzki came up. People reverted back to the thought that Dirk was a soft player who couldn't pull through in the most important moments of games.
Dirk silenced those critics after he showed us pure greatness in the rest of the playoffs. He knocked down so many great shots to dominate games and he never gave up when the Mavs were on the verge of losing games.
After winning this championship, the thought that Dirk is soft and not clutch is forever gone. The victory also brings up questions on Dirk's legacy: Is he the best power forward of all time?
Dirk has certainly moved up the pantheon of the best players of all time and he can be easily placed in the top-five power forwards' list with Tim Duncan, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Kevin McHale. One can argue that Kevin Garnett and Elvin Hayes should be in that top five, but that's another argument. I think Dirk is better than those two players anyway.
This championship victory certainly puts Dirk ahead of Barkley and Malone for one simple reason: Dirk has a championship. Although one may argue that Barkley and Malone had more talent, they don't have what's most important when it comes to judging great players: a championship.
Although Kevin McHale has three championships, I still put Dirk ahead of him on the list of best power forwards. This may seem contradictory to my last point but I feel that it's appropriate. Dirk won the championship with a team with less talent than McHale's. McHale wasn't even the best player on his team—Larry Bird was. Dirk is an alpha dog; McHale really isn't. In my opinion, Bird deserves more credit than McHale for the three titles. Also, I feel that Dirk is better than McHale because his shot-making ability is unprecedented.
And now we have Tim Duncan, who has four championships. Duncan was the alpha dog on his teams. He was the go-to guy, like Dirk. Yes, Duncan had David Robinson, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili but he was the main man on at least three of those finals teams. Also, Duncan was a master at post skills, just like Dirk is a master of jump shots.
In terms of talent, Duncan and Dirk are very close. They're both masters at two different things. We all like to think in the present. Sometimes, the rush of the present ruins our perspective, which is why some people may disagree with my opinion. Although Dirk is a great, great player, he isn't a better all-time power forward than Tim Duncan. Duncan's four championships cannot be overshadowed by Dirk's one.
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