In the 2006 NBA Finals, the Dallas Mavericks found themselves up two games on the Miami Heat, only needing two more in order to claim the franchise’s first ever NBA championship. Dirk Nowitzki was ready to make his first step into NBA greatness, Avery Johnson was beginning to look like a mad genius, and Mark Cuban was ready to add a title to his jerkish personality.
At that point in time, the Heat were built on a roster filled with numerous NBA veterans who had blown their chances to win rings in the past and were now craving one last shot; guys like Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning, James Posey, and Antoine Walker. All of the aforementioned had ostensibly learned from their past failures and were eager to rally behind the combination of Shaquille O’Neal & Dwyane Wade.
Early on, everything seemed to be in favor of the Mavs; the momentum, the confidence level, and the strength of a series lead. That is when the Dallas Mavericks made the biggest mistake in franchise history by going into cruise control.
With a superhero effort from Dwyane Wade, big-time plays from Miami’s ring-hungry supporting cast, and a Mavericks team that was negatively caught up in the moment, the Western Conference champs wound up going winless from that point on and taking their talents back to Dallas without an NBA championship.
After emerging from their respective conferences just a few weeks ago, the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat were set to go at it for the second time in five years, but the only similarities from were the teams’ logos.
This Dallas Mavericks would return this time around after an NBA season plagued by injuries, doubt, and a lack of love from the mainstream media. Despite all of the bumps in the road, the Mavericks were fortunate to have a team filled with players who understood what it would take to bring home a trophy. This team was filled by figures who had gone through a decade without capturing the NBA’s ultimate prize; to be even more accurate, the entire 12-man roster had never won a single championship.
But on the other end was the Miami Heat, the polar opposite of what the Dallas team was made of.
The Heat were brought together in the summer of 2010 by some great financial management, the idea of becoming a dynasty, and by one man’s single ‘Decision’.. Accompanying LeBron in Miami was the team’s former Finals MVP Dwyane Wade and multiple-time All Star Chris Bosh. Certainly a team with the talent level to bring home a title and the right amount of haters to draw crazy TV ratings.
Ladies and gentlemen, one hell of an NBA Finals was awaiting us.
And what a Finals series it was.
The levels of hunger on both sides for an NBA championship were off of the charts, and it was noticeable. The first two games in Miami truly showed the type of game the Heat play: defensive-minded yet flashy, and with the combined flair of the game’s two best players in the world. This was enough to steal Game 1 for Miami, but unfortunately that was the Heat’s high point of the series.
The turning point for the Dallas Mavericks came in Game 2.
The Miami Heat were playing their typical game, and it was working. The Mavericks’ age was showing and the abundance of talent for Miami was became overwhelming for Dallas.
This is when the lesson from losing in 2006 finally began to kick in for Dallas.
The hurt, pain, and suffering Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki suffered during the collapse of their Mavericks in 2006 was beginning to stir up in their minds once again, and they weren’t about to let it happen again.
Led by the two, the Dallas Mavericks concluded the game on a 17-2 run, and Dirk sealed the deal. Like that the series was tied and heading back to Texas.
There, in Game 3, the series continued its trend of defense, low-shooting percentages, and close finishes. And the highlight of these games in Dallas was the struggles of LeBron James, the man who claimed Miami would win “not six, not seven, not eight,” but possibly more NBA championships. He was beginning to slip up in the biggest moments of his life.
So the series would come back to Miami, and LeBron James had a chance to redeem himself in this “Now or never,” moment.. Or so he tweeted.
Dallas would yet again continue to show their heart, courage, and ability to block out all of the talk from the outside world. By playing continued great defense, and led by some great shooting from their bench, the Mavericks took a 3-2 series lead over the Miami Heat, and the media thrashing of LeBron James would continue.
The Dallas Mavericks now had their opportunity.
Not only were they one game closer to an NBA championship compared to their 2006 Finals debut, but they now had a roster that was eerily similar to the 2006 champion Miami Heat’s: a roster filled with dedicated and hard-working veterans who have experienced their fair share of disappointments, not a roster fused together with three cocky individuals, led by a self-proclaimed King who promised a dynasty before a single foot was stepped onto a practice facility.
Here’s how it ended:
And like that it was over.
But the beautiful thing about this series is not only the fact that Dirk Nowitzki has won his first, or the fact that the cocky talents down in South Beach have now been shut up. No, it’s much more than that. Way more.
It’s about the combined efforts of a cast of players who gave up their individual glory for the ultimate team reward: a Larry O’Brien trophy.
Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Peja Stojakovic had all seen their share of disappointments and defeats, but that is what makes this such a picture perfect story. They had to suffer to reach the game’s biggest stage, and now that the suffering has now ended, they can rejoice over the much deserved hardware.
While a chapter is closing on these Dallas Mavericks, don’t count them out for future years.
As for the Heat, let’s just hope this right here is a lesson learned.
-Miami Heat ’06 championship photo: Blog.AllCanes.com
-Dirk layup photo: Oregonlive.com