Chills still run down my spine when I think about those summery nights watching the Dallas Mavericks win game after game.
Superstitions ran high—my buddies and I insisted on going to the same bar for each game, often ordering the same dinner or drinks, not to mention sporting the same jersey, shorts, flip flops and maybe even other articles of clothing at times.
It was a glorious start to the summer, and six months later, it is only fitting that the same two teams that ended the season on top will match up to kick off another season of NBA basketball.
While the Mavs begin to prepare themselves for another season, let’s take a trip down memory lane and recap the top 10 moments of this year’s championship run, starting in late April against the Portland TrailBlazers, then staying on the West Coast against the Los Angeles Lakers, coming closer to home against the Oklahoma City Thunder and concluding against the Miami Heat in mid-June.
The moment hit Dirk. He had won. He had won a championship. Unlike the often-imaged athlete engaging in selfish celebration that is pervasive in professional sports, Dirk left the court to have a moment by himself.
Almost 30 minutes went by before he reappeared for the trophy ceremony. He will now forever be known as: Dirk Nowitzki, World Champion.
Down 88-73 with Dwyane Wade fist-pumping in the corner near the Mavs bench, Dallas was five minutes away from going down 2-0 in the NBA finals. Their journey was slipping away.
Then Wade and LeBron James had a little moment at mid-court that rejuvenated the entire Mavericks team. Dirk, Jet and Kidd ruled the next five minutes while hitting shot after shot, and Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion played excellent defense. Ultimately, Dirk’s lefty layup won the game and tied the series at a game apiece.
JET for 3. JET for 3. Peja for 3. JET for 3. JET for 3. Peja for 3. JET for 3. Peja for 3. JET for 3. Peja for 3. Peja for 3. JET for 3. Peja for 3. JET for 3. JET for 3.
That’s right, JET and Peja combined for 15 of the team's 20 three-pointers in a series-clinching win against the Lakers. For the first time all season, the rest of the NBA thought this Dallas team was capable of something.
This was a different team than in past years. This game was also notorious for JJ Barea suddenly becoming a punching bag for Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum. Not to mention, this was the last game Phil Jackson coached for his career.
The Mavericks were down 15 points with only five minutes to play in Oklahoma City. They were simply out-played and out-willed all game, and the Thunder were ready to send the series back to Dallas tied 2-2.
Out of nowhere, Dirk and Kidd went ballistic. They simply would not miss. One of the most amazing statistics I have ever seen—the first lead Dallas had all night was when Dirk hit two free throws with 16 seconds left in overtime. Are you kidding me?!
This was the turning point in the playoffs. This will and determination came in handy during Game 2 against Miami.
LeBron James started this game incredibly well—he suddenly was playing stout defense, hitting jumpers and cutting to the basket on a handful of first-quarter layups. It looked like Dallas was mentally ready for a do-or-die Game 7.
Rick Carlisle took a time out early in the second quarter, and Dirk and Jet, the lone wolves from the 2006 collapse, gave their teammates a few words. That was all it took.
The rest of the game was Mavericks all the way, with a brief Miami run to catch up. The fourth quarter was fitting—a perfect clinic from Dirk Nowitzki. His entire arsenal was on display. And finally, he was crowned as a world champion.
A febrile Dirk was sitting on the bench with a towel over his head, coughing and wheezing. He was simply worn out, and his play on the court was anything but legendary.
Until the fourth quarter, of course.
He again showed his greatness in leading the Mavs to a comeback win, including a game-winning layup against a pathetic Chris Bosh.
To enter the Staples Center and win a game is impressive in the regular season. It is even more impressive in the postseason.
To do it in the second round of the playoffs against a Phil Jackson-coached, Kobe Bryant-led team is downright unbelievable.
Dallas played excellent defense down the stretch to steal a pivotal game one from the favored Lakers. The gods were looking down on the Mavericks that evening as Kobe Bryant missed a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer. If that shot goes in, this list may be titled the "Top 10 Biggest Disappointments of the 2011 Playoff Run."
After an epic 23-point Game 4 collapse, this Mavericks were again headed the wrong way. Giving up another enormous fourth-quarter lead to an opponent was not the way these veteran Mavs wanted to see their season end. They came back big in Game 5 behind huge defensive games by Chandler and Stevenson, and another offensive outburst from Dirk.
We might never see it again—a superstar from each team put up freakish numbers against one another, going shot for shot with each other the entire game.
Dirk ended with 48 points while going 24/24 from the free-throw line. Durant finished with 40, but had to settle for an opening-game loss to the Mavericks.
Cough, cough, sneeze. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were too busy mocking Dirk and not practicing basketball. What a joke. They probably had enough time to “get sick” during the offseason while watching their pathetic play in the NBA Finals.