2011 NBA Finals: Nowitzki Isn't the Only Mav Who Had a Long Road to the Title
LeBron James will have to wait at least one more year. The Dallas Mavericks are finally NBA Champions. It's been a long road from those once promising days of Mark Aguirre and Rolando Blackman, the 11-win season, the Three J's, the Big Three, the 67 win season, and stopping another Lakers three-peat.
Dallas entered the 2010-2011 NBA season coming off 10 seasons of 50 or wins. Like the Spurs, they were seen as an aging team that had seen better days. Most were expecting a Lakers-Heat showdown in June. Instead, the 2011 Dallas Mavericks became the most unexpected NBA champion since the 1995 Houston Rockets.
Many picked them to lose in the first round of the playoffs against the Portland Trail Blazers. Caron Butler was already lost for the season and Rodrigue Beaubios was having quite the sophomore slump. Not to mention, who could forget about that 22 point blown lead in Game 4.
They pulled off an even more surprising upset than the Memphis Grizzlies did in the first round when they swept and embarrassed the twice defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. That dominating Game 4 win was exactly five weeks before they raised the Larry O'Brien trophy.
While Dirk Nowitzki is getting the credit and attention he deserves for leading the Mavericks to their first NBA title, he is far from the only person in the organization that has paid their dues to be a champion.
Rick Carlisle was fired from the Detroit Pistons after the 2002-2003 season. Larry Brown took over and the Pistons celebrated with a title and beat Carlisle's Pacers along the way in the conference finals. In their first meeting the following season, the Malice at the Palace occurred and the Indiana Pacers quickly went from championship contenders to afterthoughts.
10 years ago Jason Kidd arrived in New Jersey and led the Nets to back-to-back Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. He was swept the first time by Shaq and Kobe and fell to Tim Duncan's Spurs the following year.
Shawn Marion came close to winning a championship during his time with the Phoenix Suns, but was unable to get past the San Antonio Spurs on several occasions in a tough Western Conference.
Going in to the 2011 NBA Finals,the only guarantee was that a member of the 2002 Sacramento Kings would finally get a ring. Mike Bibby may have to wait a bit longer, but his former teammate Peja Stojakovic is now an NBA champion. Stojakovic was hardly a factor in the finals, but the three time All-Star is still one of of the best shooters in league history.
After Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry may have been the Maverick's most important player during their post Steve Nash and Michael Finley days. Despite his age he is still a top sixth man in the NBA and one of the better players to never make the All-Star Game.
Who was the most unlikely NBA Champion of all-time?
Who knows what would have happened this season if the Mavericks had acquired Al Jefferson last summer instead of Tyson Chandler. Chandler finished third in the Defensive Player of the Year voting this season and is finally getting the respect he deserves bouncing around the league the last few years. No longer will he just be remembered as the guy the Chicago Bulls once have up Elton Brand for.
The 2011 Dallas Mavericks may not have had the star power of their 2003 team or dominated the regular season like they did in 2006-2007. However, unlike those teams will go down as champions that shocked the world.
The biggest shocker of all may be that Corey Brewer got an NBA championship ring before Joakim Noah or Al Horford.
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