Mavericks win, LeBron loses in NBA Finals
The Dallas Mavericks did what few gave them a chance of doing when the NBA playoffs first started — they won it all. Dallas upended the vaunted Miami Heat in six games, taking Game 6 105-95 on Miami’s home floor June 12, and vanquished demons from the past in the process.
While only two players from Dallas’ last NBA Finals team were still on the roster (Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry), the entire team seemed to understand what was at stake. They all understood what had dogged the Mavericks franchise and its star player since 2006 — the soft label; the Finals collapse; the belief that Dallas was nothing more than a good team, not a great one. Dallas shed every one of those labels during these playoffs.
The Mavericks played determined defense, spearheaded by Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, and DeShawn Stevenson. They had significant contributions from unlikely sources in J.J. Barea and Peja Stojakovic. And they had the offensive 1-2 punch from team leaders Nowitzki and Terry.
Nowitzki elevated his name into lofty territory with his postseason performance. His legend seemed to grow with each passing game, from hitting game-winning shots to playing Game 4 with a fever of around 101 degrees. Now he can add NBA Champion and NBA Finals MVP to his Hall of Fame résumé.
As the game came to an end, Nowitzki bolted for the Mavericks’ locker room. He did not celebrate initially with his teammates or talk to any of the Miami players. He just cried. But unlike in ‘06, this time the tears shed were of jubilation and relief, of finally reaching the mountaintop after so many years of trying and heartbreak. The victory was personal vindication for him as a player and vindication for the organization that he had given his entire 13-year career to.
Nowitzki is no longer one of just seven NBA MVPs to never win a title (the others being Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Derrick Rose, and James). He can finally take his name off that list.
Dallas ’ victory was also a victory for everyone who rooted for LeBron James and the Heat to fail.
Shortly after the deciding game, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert Tweeted the following: “Congrats to Mark C.& entire Mavs org., Mavs NEVER stopped & now entire franchise gets rings. Old Lesson for all: There are NO SHORTCUTS. NONE.”
The following day, Ohio governor John Kasich declared the Mavericks organization and fans official honorary Ohioans. Kasich wrote in a statement that “The Dallas Mavericks displayed the loyalty, integrity and teamwork essential to victory before the entire country, affirming that these admirable traits are as crucial as talent and athleticism.”
Governor Kasich also took a shot at James, praising Nowitzki’s decision to remain in Dallas during free agency last season and keep “his talents in Dallas, thus remaining loyal to the team, city, and fans for whom he played his entire career.”
James’ former teammate in Cleveland, Mo Williams, even posted the following message to his Twitter account: “ Dallas just healed my HEART.”
The jokes started almost immediately as well. Earl Barron posted to his Twitter account that the city of Dallas had declared it LeBron James Day, allowing everyone to leave work 12 minutes early. Meanwhile, Stevenson wore a shirt that said “Hey LeBron! How’s My Dirk Taste?”, and his Wiki page reportedly claimed that Stevenson had taken up residence in James’ head.
The Miami faithful were few and far between during this Finals matchup, and after the game, James was asked during the postgame media session about all the people who had been rooting for the Heat to lose. James’ response did not disappoint.
“At the end of the day, all the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had today. I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that.
“They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they have to get back to the real world at some point.”
James’ characterization of his detractors as miserable wretches whose only joy in life comes from the failure of the Miami Heat and himself is a stark contrast to teammate Chris Bosh’s statements during the same postgame media session, where Bosh said of Dallas “Hands down, they were the better team in this series.”
Sure James was being asked more pointed questions about whether he had choked on the NBA’s biggest stage, but one player was humble and gracious in defeat while one was combative and defensive.
And if James thinks the questions and doubters are going away, he is in for a rude awakening. After his comments during and after this series, the mocking of Nowitzki’s illness by he and teammate Dwyane Wade before Game 5, and his diminished play, the scrutiny and pressure will be greater than ever.
James averaged just 17.8 points in the Finals, making his 8.9-point drop in scoring average from the regular season to the Finals the largest drop in NBA history. He scored just 18 points in the six fourth quarters of the Finals combined, and he now sits with a 2-8 record in the NBA Finals. After being compared to Michael Jordan during the series against Chicago in the Eastern Conference Finals, he is now having his heart and will to win questioned.
But none of that drama matters much in Dallas. Nowitzki, Kidd, Terry, Marion, and the rest of the ringless veterans on that team can now take their names off that dubious list as they bask in their champagne-soaked glory and party with the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
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