June 12th, 2011.
Now, for most people, that was just another day of the week. But not for the city of Dallas.
This was a day that Mavericks fans have dreamed about since the franchise was born in 1980.
From the beginning of their journey during the 2011 playoffs, it always seemed like the Mavericks were destined to reach the promise land, though the outside opinion felt otherwise. From having six of the 12 ESPN “experts” predict that Portland would upset the Mavs in the first round to having all 14 “experts” pick the Lakers in the second round (who Dallas swept if we’re keeping score), the Mavs were always seen as the underdog, a role that this veteran group thrived under.
When Dallas punched their ticket to the NBA Finals after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder, Mavs fans started to feel a little déjà vu as the Miami Heat once again stood in the way of the ultimate goal. As we all know and would like to forget, this became a rematch of the 2006 Finals, where the whistle didn’t blow in the Mavericks favor in a 4-2 series defeat.
Through the first five games of the Finals, the Mavericks were showing the basketball world that it takes more than just having three superstars to win a championship. Though Dirk was definitely leading the charge, he was not alone. Jason Terry was huge off the bench as he had been throughout his entire Mavericks stint. J.J. Barea, who consistently attacked the basket and to everyone’s surprise, stood his own when guarding LeBron James, earned a spot in the starting lineup in Game 4, which proved to change the series.
Speaking of LeBron, he was not himself during this series, averaging only 17.8 points, which was almost 10 points less than his regular season average. Rick Carlisle continued throwing different bodies and defensive looks at James, whether it was Shawn Marion, DeShawn Stevenson, Jason Kidd, or Barea, it was a group effort to keep The King from reaching his throne.
The Mavs came out firing to start Game 6. Jet and Stevenson were hitting from downtown off the bench, which helped give Dallas their first double-digit lead of the series in the second quarter. But the Heat wouldn’t lay down. Dwyane Wade caught fire on a 14-0 Miami run, bringing the Heat within two at halftime. At the half, Dirk was 1-12 from the field, yet his teammates stepped up to the plate and had their MVP’s back.
In the second half, Dirk began to find his rhythm and the Mavericks slowly continued inching away from the Heat. Jason Terry had a game-high 27 points and hit shot after shot down the stretch for Dallas. Though the Mavericks held the lead throughout the second half, the Heat were never out of it until the final minute.
With 29.5 seconds left, Kidd hit Dirk rolling to the cup and hit the dagger lay-up over LeBron and Chris Bosh to put the Mavs up 103-92. #41 ran down the floor with both hands raised in the air as he knew he had finally reached the mountain top. After a defensive rebound and intentional foul, Dirk and Tyson Chandler slowly walked up the court with their hands on their heads in complete exhaustion and elation. They had done it.
As the final horn sounded and it became official that the Dallas Mavericks were NBA Champions, Dirk was no where to be found. The emotions of disbelief and euphoria that he had finally achieved his goal had came over him. He scurried back to the locker room as his teammates rushed the floor in celebration as he needed a moment to collect himself. All of the notions that he was too soft and that he couldn’t get it done, we’re finally put to bed.
“The whole world was telling us that we were the ‘one-and-done boys’, that we were going to get knocked out of the first round, but this team has so much heart,” owner Mark Cuban celebrated as the Mavericks hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy for the first time.
“This is a true team. This is a old school bunch. We don’t run fast or jump high but these guys had each other’s back. They played the right way,” coach Rick Carlisle said as he praised his team.
And that’s exactly what this was; a true team. A group of veterans who knew what it takes to reach the promise land. No matter if it was Dirk or Brian Cardinal, each man who put on a Dallas jersey in the postseason contributed in some way.
You can say since 2011, there hasn’t been an honest championship that wasn’t a “super team”. Before 2011, when the Mavericks failed to get over the hump, Dirk had his chances to move on and chase his ring elsewhere. But, he stayed in Dallas where his heart was supplanted and we will forever love him for that.
So, there you have it, folks. Your 2011 NBA Champions; the Dallas Mavericks. One can only hope that the second championship in franchise history won’t take another 31 years to come true.
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