As the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat 105-95 on Sunday to earn the franchise’s first NBA championship, we learned a lot of things along the way. Over the course of six grueling games in the series, basketball fans were treated to a plethora of storylines, both on the court and off.
The first and obvious implication is that Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry avenged their loss to the Miami Heat in 2006. For Dirk Nowitzki, his performance throughout the playoffs (especially in fourth quarters) and his ability to shine in his own version of a “flu game” will always be remembered as one of the greatest individual runs in the postseason. We already knew Nowitzki is one of the game’s greatest scorers, but he was able to shake the monkey off his back. Gone are the “soft” labels imposed upon him by NBA pundits.
Now, most NBA analysts acknowledge that Nowitzki is not only the best shooting big man in NBA history, but also the best European player of all time. His position on most people’s all-time greatest lists shot up quite a few places, and one can legitimately make a claim that Nowitzki belongs in the top 20.
As for Terry, the last two games of the Finals featured him dominating and making incredible shots that most basketball players could only dream of. With his performances, Terry now will be included among the lists of the best sixth men of all time.
It was pleasing to see Jason Kidd win ultimate glory after playing the game the right way for 17 seasons in the NBA. It’s always tough to see future Hall of Famers leave the NBA without winning a title. According to an article I wrote earlier, Nowitzki and Kidd were the sixth and eighth best player respectively to never win a title.
Kidd, along with the other veterans like Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler, showed that they wanted the win more. Considering that this year might have been the team’s best chance, showed in the incredible effort put forth by the entire Mavericks team.
After leaving the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers in unfair circumstances, coach Rick Carlisle has redeemed himself and shown the world why he belongs in the conversation of the best basketball coaches.
Yet, the biggest reason that everything seems right in the eyes of many with Dallas winning over Miami, has to do with context. Rick Carlisle said it best in his Game 6 postgame interview that Miami played a game in the air, while the Mavericks played the game on the ground.
Although Miami was top heavy with talent in featuring three of the top 15 players in the world (and arguably two of the top three in Dwyane Wade and LeBron James), Dallas was a more well-rounded team that played better as a cohesive unit. Watching the team play was like witnessing basketball fundamentals at its finest.
This series win also helped shed the label (at least temporarily) that a team needs three stars to win the Finals.
By having just one legitimate All-Star, in Nowitzki, surrounded by role players, perhaps there will be more resistance to teams trying to copy the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat in pursuing the “three star player” strategy. Perhaps more star players will follow the model of Dirk Nowitzki and remain loyal to their teams, rather than jumping ship like Chris Bosh and James did last summer.
After the controversial calls in the 2006 Finals that sent Wade to the line numerous times each game, most fans around the world would have already rooted for Dallas.
Then enter the story of the Miami Heat. The world took issue not with the fact that James left Cleveland last summer, but rather the manner in how he did it—by stabbing Cleveland in the back on national television in the creation of a big spectacle.
The self-proclaimed “King” of basketball proceeded to put on a show with new teammates Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. They rose up through the stage with a hydraulic lift and claimed that the team would win “not five, not six,” but even more championships.
Along with that annoying act, the team showed its immaturity after coach Erik Spoelstra let it slip that his players were crying in the locker room following a losing streak in the middle of the season. And for the cherry on top, their was the video of Wade and James mocking Nowitzki, as if to suggest the German player was faking his coughing and flu symptoms. This seemed to turn the last basketball fans outside of Florida against the Heat.
It did seem like as the playoffs progressed, the Mavericks were destined to win it all. Once again, LeBron James failed to deliver in the most clutch of situations, Charles Barkley looked like a genius with his predictions, and in the end, the better team won.
Even my friends and co-workers who were rooting for Miami in the Finals acknowledged the “feel-good” story of the Mavericks. For any pure basketball fan, there are just too many good storylines to go with the Mavericks’ win.
Which is why high above us, the basketball gods are smiling down upon us.