Another NBA season has come and gone. Putting all of the preseason hype, deadline trades and overall drama that filled this season, I'm just happy about one thing: that fans got to watch another amazing NBA Finals.
In what probably made his new team's fans beam, LeBron James helped the Miami Heat reach the NBA Finals. Yet, once there, he choked and the Heat lost in six games to the Dallas Mavericks in what was a series for the ages.
Given how it was an amazing series and with the ever-growing possibility of a lockout next season, it's only right that this epic NBA Finals be given it's proper tribute.
Each game was a dogfight until the very end and with each key play down the stretch, fans' adrenaline pumped just a little harder. That being said, let's honor some of the better ones.
Here are the Top 20 Plays of the 2011 NBA Finals.
Early in the third quarter of Game 2, Heat guard Dwyane Wade pulled off one of his many signature moves that until he came to the NBA, most fans had only seen on the playground.
After a steal and subsequent pass from Mike Bibby, Wade drove past a sluggish Dirk Nowitzki (getting fouled in the process) and drove to the basket for a reverse dunk.
It was just one of many over-the-top plays that Wade has made in his NBA career. Seriously, how many times has Wade done this?
It seems that every shot he takes is made to look pretty and show the fans something that's usually reserved for streetball. Either way, it was a pretty move.
One of the best things about the outcome of the 2011 NBA Finals was that 16-year veteran Jason Kidd finally won his first championship.
At age 38, Kidd is no longer the dynamic point guard he was 10 years ago. Still, that doesn't mean he's lost his amazing shooting touch from beyond the arc.
Watch the video and see him drive the final nail into Miami's coffin in Game 5.
Although LeBron James will probably be better known for how he didn't show up in key games of the Finals, I'm going to put aside my personal feelings towards him and spotlight this great dunk.
It was in the first quarter of Game 3 and not necessarily a game changer, but it showed flashes of the LeBron with whom we first fell in love in Cleveland.
With D-Wade on the bench, James just drives to the basket through multiple defenders and throws down a dunk with authority to give Miami a lead.
Perhaps if he played with this type of intensity in the fourth quarter, the Heat would have won the trophy.
Poor Chris Bosh. No matter how well he plays in Miami, he's always going to be overshadowed by James and Wade.
How can someone who so perfectly and so powerfully executes this putback dunk fly under the radar in South Beach?
Either way, this dunk is awesome.
As much as LeBron James will be criticized for his performance in the Finals, it can't be denied that he certainly had his moments. For example, this three-pointer he nailed at the end of the third quarter in Game 1.
James just made this shot look effortless and thus gave the Heat a four-point lead entering the last quarter.
It's no secret that this shot woke up the crowd and their energy contributed to Miami's Game 1 victory.
This play didn't need to happen. Miami had a 10-point lead with less than a minute to go in the last quarter, so all they had to do was run the clock and throw up any shot. Heck, even with a shot-clock violation, they still would have won.
Instead, James and Wade continued their showboating ways and went with this electrifying alley-oop.
Still, although unnecessary, it was a pretty sick play that showcased excellent communication between two teammates.
Just so nobody thinks I'm a hater, let me clear this up. I don't hate Dwyane Wade. I just hate the way he plays the game.
Instead of just going on the court and playing the game, it seems that Wade goes out of his way to make each one of his shots look pretty.
Love him or hate him, it can't be denied that D-Wade is the master of shake and bake. Take a look at this shot and try to name a player who can nail it with Wade's consistency.
Yeah...I couldn't think of one, either.
When it came time to name the Finals MVP, the obvious choice was Dirk Nowitzki. In all six games, he put the team on his back despite having both the flu and a torn finger tendon.
When he wasn't making clutch shots, he was using his strong 7'0" body to play lights-out defense.
Just watch him block a dunk attempt by Chris Bosh here and look at his face. That's pure determination right there.
Yes, it actually happened. Dwyane Wade blocked a dunk attempt by Dallas center Tyson Chandler and fans all around the world went into shock.
To make readers understand why this occurred, allow me to put it another way. Dwyane Wade is 6'4", while Chandler is 7'1".
Under normal circumstances, Chandler would be the one blocking Wade. Instead, the opposite happened and ended up on this countdown.
One player in the NBA who (unfortunately) has flown under the radar the past few seasons is Shawn Marion.
Once a dominant forward for the Phoenix Suns, Marion has never been the same since being traded from Phoenix to Miami in 2008.
He was traded to the Toronto Raptors the following season before finally finding a new niche with Dallas.
All season long and in the Finals, Marion was clutch both on offense and defense as the team's resident trash talker. On top of that, he was responsible for one of the best dunks of the entire series.
After receiving the dish from Tyson Chandler, watch as Marion just throws it down with authority. The event occurs around 2:13.
In Game 5, Dallas was playing in a must-win game. With Miami trailing by five points with about a minute to go, Dwyane Wade made his way to the basket for a layup.
Instead of making the shot, he was met with a block from Tyson Candler.
This play was clutch for one particular reason. Dwyane Wade, possibly the most clutch shooter in the NBA, was blocked by the former No. 2 overall pick, who is considered by many to be something of a draft bust.
Needless to say, Dallas won this game and the next to take home its first championship!
At first glance, JJ Barea does not look like an NBA player. He is generously listed as six feet tall, but he's almost definitely shorter.
Apparently, he has trouble getting into the arena because security doesn't believe he's part of the team.
Barea is, in fact, a very important member of the Dallas Mavericks, and this layup he made in Game 4 shows why.
If there's one criticism I have about the 2011 NBA Finals, it's that Dirk Nowitzki didn't dunk nearly enough.
Still, when he did slam the rock through the hoop, he made the most of it. This one occurred in Game 5, and it gave Dallas the lead for good.
As was mentioned before, Dirk Nowitzki earned Finals MVP honors by putting the team on his back in each of the six games of the series.
This clutch layup in the final seconds of Game 4 is a prime example of Dirty Dirk's leadership and willingness to carry his team in a big game.
He made this layup, Dallas won Game 4, and the fans roared.
Udonis Haslem has long had a reputation for being one of the league's toughest and hardest-playing forwards.
This dunk he threw down after receiving a pass from Dwyane Wade is no exception. Watch this epic rim-rocker and try saying that Haslem is overrated.
The next three plays of this slideshow are part of a sequence. We'll kick off with Dirk Nowitzki's go-ahead three pointer in the fourth quarter of Game 2.
With less than a minute to go and the game tied at 90, Nowitzki put up a shot from beyond the arc and...well, watch the video.
Dallas's celebration was short-lived, as Mario Chalmers re-tied the game with a three-pointer of his own.
And as he has done so many times before, Dirk Nowitzki wins the game with a simple layup.
Besides great defense, Mario Chalmers' reputation is one of a clutch long range shooter. In Game 5, with time running out in the first quarter, he made a controversial shot from halfcourt at the buzzer.
It was later determined that he got away with a backcourt violation, but it's still a pretty shot nonetheless.
Before the start of the 2011 NBA Finals, I had never heard of Ian Mahinmi. Oddly enough, he now finds himself in the top spot of this countdown.
The 6'11" Frenchman was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 2005, spent a couple of seasons playing in France, and then spent a couple more riding the pine in San Antonio.
He was essentially a non-factor in 56 games for Dallas this season, but suddenly became the backup center in the Finals following the injury of Brendan Haywood.
Mahinmi answered the bell and played solid defense whenever called upon. Most importantly, however, he nailed a buzzer beater at the end of the third quarter in Game 6.
Forget the rest of the pretty shots in the series. This one sealed the victory for Dallas.