Mavs Title 'A Win For Team Basketball' - Dirk

It was 34 years ago when the world watched a boxer demonstrate his anger at an opponent's mocking refusal to properly acknowledge him. ‘What's my name?' the offended athlete shouted at during a 15-round beating. ‘What's my name?' That was Ali. This is Dirk. Miami's Mocking Mercenaries are beaten and must listen. That was Ali. This is Dirk. And these are his Dallas Mavericks, 2011 World Champions.



Basketball isn't boxing, exactly. And the issues of race and respect are not in play with Nowitzki quite as they were with Ernie Terrell vs. Ali (nee Cassius Clay) in 1967. And is Nowitzki a hardwood Ali? Aw, that'd be a stretch, I suppose. But Dirk Nowitzki himself notes that for a variety of reasons, mostly his falling short of a title, he's been "hammered'' throughout his career, and maybe race and respect does have something to do with that. Now? Dirk's embrace of a Larry O'Brien Trophy after 13 years of labor and abuse -- at least I think he got to embrace it before owner Mark Cuban led the Mavs party to the South Beach Club LIV to pass it around and ask it to dance --moves him nearer the great heroes of this sport and maybe sports in general.

Smile


Dwyane Wade and LeBron James had taunted Dirk, making fun of his 101-degree fever in Game 3 by pretending to have their own problems with coughs. It was hypocritical for sure, as Wade and James, for all their athletic prowess are also two of sports' most decorated Drama Queens. But it was something more.

"I just thought it was a little childish, a little ignorant,'' Dirk said. "I've been in this league for 13 years. I've never faked an injury or illness."

Notably, going into the decisive 105-95 Game 6 victory that gives Dallas its first-ever title, none of Dirk's gum-flapping/eloquent teammates retaliated verbally to Miami's "Mr. Ignorant & Mr. Childish House of Burlesque Show.''

Who stuffed a sock in 'em? Where were Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson and Tyson Chandler and Jason Terry? Why were they quiet?

Because Dirk asked them to be, urged them to join him in doing their work behind him on the floor instead of behind a microphone on a podium.

Nowitzki had insisted that he didn't need the additional motivation of two sophomoric morons to seek his title. And, hey, maybe Ali didn't need anything extra to pound Terrell. But we know what Dirk's Mavs did to the Lakers in these playoffs while LA's Matt Barnes was boasting of having create a "punk-‘em blueprint'' to beat Dallas – a 4-0 sweep. And we know what happened when Phoenix' Tim Thomas called Dirk a p-word in the Western Conference Finals of 2006 – Dirk, guarded by Thomas, put up a half-a-hundred against him.

So after a two-week period during which observers wondered why Mavs mouths would "poke the bear'' (that is, say incendiary things about LeBron), there is a new question that should be etched into all the volumes of all the basketball books on all the shelves forevermore:

Why would Wade and James dare poke The UberMan? Or his relentless wave of supporters?

No, Dirk (21 points, 11 rebounds) didn't have his best game of the series, shooting just 1-of-12 in the first half before turning it on late to score 10 in the final quarter – once again single-handedly outshining James and Wade combined in so many ways. But what he had instead, in the interim, was the support of so many teammates who had his back, who served him as if he were the offended Ali and they were 12 Clenched Fists.

Smile


When Terry exploded for 27 points, he was making a statement. Yes, he also spoke out loud, telling Dirk in the fourth quarter to "Remember '06'' and the Mavs' haunting NBA Finals loss to this same Miami franchise. But in the way he jabbed at the Heat defense with his 11-of-16 shooting, he might as well have been saying …

"What's my name?''

When freshly-inserted series starter J.J. Barea scooted around in that maddeningly unguardable way of his, stretching his 5-10 frame up,up, up to the rim for 15 points, he might as well have been saying …

"What's my name?''

When DeShawn Stevenson frustrated James on defense, found something inside himself to nail three 3's, and stirred the pot by starting a bench-clearing shoving match, he might as well have been saying …

"What's my name?''

Whether it was a Tyson Chandler heart-and-soul alley-oop dunk or a Brian Cardinal "country-strong'' screen or Shawn Marion's two-way 'trix or "The Ianimal'' bouncing around as an emergency backup center and making a clock-beating jumper to end the third or the bench guys agreeing to wear black suits appropriate for the opponent's funeral, all the Mavs who were asked not to talk on Dirk's behalf spoke with confident action …

"What's my name?''

After the game – an outcome that polishes the unfairly soiled legacy of so many involved – Dirk put it into words, too. He'd left the floor immediately after the final buzzer, maybe overcome with positive emotion but also maybe hesitant to engage in the traditional handshakes with opponents who'd mocked his veracity and tenacity and all the things he's represented as the 13-year face of the franchise.

"This,'' The UberMan said, his new "NBA Champions'' hat sitting crooked on his head, "is a win for team basketball.''

What do you think that meant? Who do you think that was directed at?

"What's my name?''

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle spoke, too. He's also held his tongue about the anti-Dirk foolishness and about his fundamental beliefs in the way the game should be played – the Dallas Mavericks way. But no more.

"A series like this gets very personal,'' Rick said. "It gets personal because we have guys that say things, and they do it to get themselves going. Then they have the incident with the camera and the coughing and all that stuff. … It becomes personal. Our guys took it personally tonight. They were not going to be denied.''

Keep listening. …

Smile


Carlisle contined, "This is one of the unique teams in NBA history. Because it wasn't about high-flying star power. Come on, how often do we have to hear about ‘The LeBron James Reality Show' and what he is or isn't doing? When are people going to talk about the purity of our game and what these guys accomplished? That's what's special. … We knew it was very important that we won this series … because of what the game is about, and what the game should stand for. … (The Mavs) have made a statement that's a colossal statement.''

They made a statement, alongside Dirk and for Dirk. They did it with nary a word. They did it with a two-week-long, 48-minute-at-a-time flurry of basketball punches to an opponent that had foolishly questioned who they are and what they stand for.

What's his name?

His name is Dirk.

What's their name?

They are the Dallas Mavericks, 2011 World Champions.





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