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NBA Playoffs 2011: How Dirk Nowitzki May Have Saved Professional Basketball

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks holds up the Bill Russell Finals MVP trophy after Bill Russell presented it to him following the Mavericks 105-95 win against the Miami Heat 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Joe AcampadoCorrespondent IJune 13, 2011

And so Dirk the Great of the Nowitzki clan, the Champion of Dallas, rode forth to meet the Three Kings of the Southern Beaches with a message from the gods of basketball:

Not this time.

Last night proved a lot of things, dispelled some myths and may have changed basketball forever. This year’s finals were probably the most important thing to happen to basketball in a decade, maybe more.

In fact, there are so many things to cover that I’m going to have to break it down into two parts: one on the Dirk Nowitzki and Dallas side and the other on the LeBron James and Miami side. Today, I’m focusing on what Dirk and Dallas did and how they’ve affected the NBA.

I guess the big thing is that Dirk finally has his ring. On top of that, he just propelled himself into many basketball conversations, such as who’s the best forward not named Larry Bird, where does he rank among the 20 greatest players of all time (and after this series/playoffs, he belongs up there) and who’s the most clutch player of this generation (maybe even alive/all-time).

We’re not even discussing his influence on the international level. He and Manu Ginobili are probably the most important players born outside the U.S.

Then there’s the fact of how he helped catapult Jason Kidd a couple of levels in the pantheon of the basketball greats. With the ring, Kidd cemented his legacy and capped off his career in the best way possible.

Back to Dirk—I’m not even going to talk about how he made The Decision and The Decision After-Party look (you can probably search the web for a bunch of memes on that). But he did prove LeBron wrong, at least for now.

I’ve said before that this finals was more than just who is going to be this year’s champions. The finals were a test of two ideals between different teams with two different identities.

Dallas had Dirk Nowitzki and a bunch of role players. Miami had three of the best players in the series and two of the best players in the league.

The Decision was based on the notion that you can’t win without at least two stars or a Big Three. Last night, Dirk proved The Decision wrong.

Sure, Tyson Chandler helped solidify the defensive end and Jason Terry made a lot of clutch shots off the bench, but when it’s all said and done, people are going to remember Dirk Nowitzki the most.

People are going to remember him making the most impossible of shots. People are going to remember him getting better with each quarter and how he took over games in the final minutes. People are going to remember it was he versus LeBron and Dwyane Wade, not Kidd, Terry and Chandler versus them.

Dirk won without the help so many people assumed was necessary to even make the finals, let alone win. I’m pretty sure this is going to factor into front office decisions this offseason as well as the negotiations for the new CBA.

The finals may have made some people forget that there might not be basketball next season. Now, I’m no expert on these negotiations or on labor deals, but this year’s finals had to have some influence on them.

Unlike the NFL, the NBA had a hard time selling its playoffs to casual fans. People watch the Super Bowl regardless of who’s playing. Few people have interest in the NBA Finals, let alone the playoffs. That is until this year.

Ratings were up for this year’s playoffs, and not just for the Miami games. People were interested in other games as well. Basketball has gotten interesting again, and casual fans are responding via TV ratings.

This means revenues are going to go up and other business-y stuff, which basically means that the chances of professional basketball happening next season go up as well. With people showing interest in basketball as a whole, not just their own teams, owners and players will have to notice if they want the benefits.

Right now, basketball is reaching its peak and is at its best since the Michael Jordan years. The talent in the league and the talent coming into the league have made basketball relevant again.

Then there's Dirk, who reinstalled the faith of some fans that true teams and hard work are all that’s needed to win, not a mercenary team of stars.

Expect teams to try to follow the Dallas trend or at least reconsider the Big Three philosophy. Chicago is probably not going to sacrifice to get that third star, and New York is going to think about what it means to go after Chris Paul.

More people are going to be invested next season to see if LeBron can come back to win or if Dirk, or at least the Dallas philosophy of a team, can come back to stop him again.

Therefore, it would be foolish for a lockout to take place to hinder the season since basketball can’t get any better. The owners need to smarten up (looking at you, James Dolan and Donald Sterling) and realize that. The players also have to see that people care about basketball again.

Now if both sides see that, hopefully we’ll have another compelling basketball season.

This may be a little premature, but these Finals, and Dirk, may have just saved basketball.

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