The Dallas Mavericks certainly did not look like they were a championship team coming into the playoffs.
Boy, did they prove us wrong.
We were ready to write them off from the get-go. Who could blame us? The Mavericks had suffered a devastating loss to Miami in the 2006 Finals. Then they were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round three times in the four years following their championship loss.
The Mavericks were an easy pick to be upset by the Portland Trailblazers in the first round of this year's playoffs. They were too old. They didn't have enough size. They didn't have enough athleticism. The list goes on.
But there was one thing that many, including myself, didn't take into account.
Dallas was a team. And by team I mean they were close knit, they played together and most importantly, they all had something to prove. By playing together they knew that they could show the world that it isn't about three great players who happen to play on a team with each other. It was about a true team uniting for one common goal: an NBA Championship.
The Mavericks follow a similar formula that past champions have. They have a superstar and leader in Dirk Nowitzki. They had a veteran leader who had been there before and knows what to do in almost every situation in Jason Kidd. They had a clutch scorer and energizer in Jason Terry. They had good defenders in DeShawn Stevenson and Shawn Marion, a big man who could defend the paint with Tyson Chandler and an amazing bench that could hold down the fort while the main guys got their rest.
Does the Heat's loss mean the season was a failure?
With all of the hype the Miami Heat caused at the beginning of last summer, we forgot about this formula even though it's been proven time and time again that it takes a full team effort to win a championship.
The previous champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, were a team with all different types of role players. Yes they had superstars in Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, but they also had role players such as Ron Artest and LaMar Odom, who were integral in winning championships.
You can even look at the 2008 Boston Celtics. Although they served almost as an inspiration for the way this year's Miami Heat were put together, the '08 Celtics weren't three superstars and a group of players that were just thrown together. They were an extremely close team with amazing role players and a great bench.
The Heat tried to take the easy route to a championship. Their whole roster was gutted in order to get Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James all on the same team. Then Miami threw some role players around their "big 3" and figured they could win multiple championships because they had 3 superstars. But like Dan Gilbert tweeted after the Heat's loss, "Old Lesson for all:There are NO SHORTCUTS. NONE."
Dallas certainly didn't take any shortcuts to reach their championship victory. The Mavericks deserve all of the credit.
It took a long time for them to get where they are now. Jason Kidd, at 38, finally got the ring that eluded him his entire career. Jason Terry, who took a risk getting a tattoo of the Larry O'Brien trophy, vindicated his confidence and proved to everyone how clutch of a player he is. Shawn Marion, after so many tortured playoff runs with the Phoenix Suns, got to the big dance and didn't look back. J.J. Barea, the smallest player on the court showed how big his heart was by being a vital part of Dallas's championship effort. After so many disappointments, Dirk got his ring and has solidified himself as one of the greatest players of all time. And most importantly, they all did it together, as a team.