NBA Finals reaction

by Andrew Kennedy

The Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat 105-95 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals last night to capture the 2011 NBA championship.

LeBron James was horrific for the last three games of the series having what had to be the worst performance ever by a superstar in a championship. Dirk Nowitzki was clutch all series with one of the most impressive accomplishments in NBA history winning a title with this Dallas team.

But most importantly, the 2006 NBA Finals travesty has been avenged and in the most perfect fashion. Yes, now I am finally over those Finals.

So many things happened this season in the NBA. It was one of the best seasons I can remember and had such a dramatic NBA Finals to cap it off. Now there might be a lockout next year and how sad that would be if not for the unbelievable season we had this year and the memories that have come from it.

Back to these Finals because every game was absolutely incredible. It had to be one of the closest Finals in history and had some great storylines as well and left a lot of questions that need to be answered. I am here to answer what I think are the most important questions of the NBA Finals.

What do we make of LeBron’s performance?

It’s a slight to start with LeBron and not the Mavericks who won the series but it is without question the bigger story. LeBron and the Heat have been the biggest story all season and were a huge part as to why this NBA season was so great.

LeBron was great for most of the season himself. He made a strong case for the MVP and many thought he should have won it. Then in the playoffs he was fantastic against Boston and Chicago leading Miami to 5-game series wins over each of them.

Then the Finals and Dallas came and LeBron could not have disappointed more. He was beyond passive and scared and clueless on the court for the last three games. It was as if he wanted it to all of a sudden be Wade’s team. He couldn’t take the pressure and wanted Wade to carry them to a win. He just wanted to be a point guard and distribute.

He was so much worse than even that. The passive attempts to drive and score spilled over into every aspect of the game and the media’s talk of the issue seemed to bother LeBron and make him play even worse. Even if he just had the 8-point Game 4 and the Heat came back to win the series with him playing decent, he would have been a disappointment this series.

The bottom line is that the best athlete in the world was playing in his sport’s championship this year and he was downright scared and intimidated by the moment. He was this scared and he had the best sidekick possible in Wade who would never be scared and provide more than enough help for LeBron. This has never happened before in sports and maybe never will again. LeBron may be the best athlete but mentally, he is so weak and seems to have so much less drive and passion to dominate than any other average athlete in the world it is shocking.

The Heat other than LeBron all played good enough to win this series, maybe even good enough to sweep this series. It’s all on him. It sounds like I’m taking away from the Mavs winning but it’s true. It’s all on him. He blew it. He was awful. He deserves to be ripped for this every day until he wins and wins in the way that the best player in the sport should.

What does this do for Dirk’s legacy?

Before this series started I wrote how the Mavericks could not win. There was no historical context for this Dallas team beating Miami. If it happened, it would be the first of its kind and a tremendous upset of sorts. Not necessarily an upset in terms of Dallas having so much less talent than Miami, but more of an upset in terms of “you don’t ever win with a team like this playing a team like Miami.”

Now that Dallas has won, we have to look at Dirk totally differently. It seems unfair and some people don’t like it when becoming a championship boosts how a player is viewed historically but that’s just how it is in sports and the NBA particularly when one player can have such a large impact on the court.

Dirk is now the second power forward to ever play the game in my opinion. Tim Duncan is one and will be for awhile and it’s obvious why. The rest of the top five contains Kevin Garnett, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone. I put Dirk ahead of all three but not by much.

Garnett is there as the best defensive power forward ever. He sacrificed to join Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in Boston and won one title. He may have been the most important player on the team for the title but not the clear-cut best player like Dirk was this year. He was also past his prime and couldn’t win when he was in his prime with a very solid supporting cast. He was not enough to win a title as the best player on his team.

That is the same reason why I put Barkley and Malone behind Dirk. That is the main reason at least. The case for those two being ahead of Dirk is easy to make though.

Go back and watch Barkley and see some of the numbers he put up as a 6-foot-4 power forward and it is as impressive as almost anything in NBA history. Malone too had incredible numbers and for such a long period of time.

Michael Jordan stood in the way of each of them and they weren’t good enough to beat him. Dirk got past the current version of the 90’s Bulls to win this year. The Heat of course aren’t nearly as good as those Bulls teams but to be fair, had the ball bounced the other way a few times this series and Miami won this year, I’m sure plenty of people would have been trying to make the case that they were on their way to getting to the level of the 90’s Bulls teams.

So I think Dirk jumps that high on the all-time power forward list and also on the all-time player list to the top 15. I think he should be remembered around where Moses Malone is remembered in terms of ranking. He will definitely be remembered as the best international player of all-time. He will also be remembered as the best 7-foot shooter of all-time and the first team to win a title when their best player was known as a “shooter.”

Also Dirk like many of the all-time greats before him sort of messed up the NBA in his own way. After Dirk entered the league every team was looking for the next Dirk whenever the NBA Draft came around leading to some horrible international busts over the past 10 years or so. When you’re great, you always ruin the game you play just a little bit in some way or another.

Where does this Mavs team rank all-time?

To be fair, probably one of the least talented teams to ever win a title (again, that’s why Dirk’s legacy must jump so high). I don’t think anyone gave them a real shot to win it all this year until about a week ago. I have loved the Mavericks for ten years now but not enough to try and get my hopes up the last few years. Dallas winning this year is the most improbable champion since Detroit in 2004.

We’re probably going to remember how well they came together. How they were a bunch of castaways that played great team ball. Their ball movement was incredible. They had a ton of different looks they could throw out onto the court and their ability to adjust and do things like play zone is what won them the title. Better coaching and better basketball trumped talent this year in the Finals and that doesn’t always happen.

This isn’t one of the great teams of all-time. It was a good team at a time in the league where there wasn’t a dominant team in the NBA that had one of the top 15 players of all-time go on a historic individual run and bring his teammates to new heights and win a championship. Believe me, I’d still be writing about how there weren’t any great teams if Miami won this year instead.

Dallas did do some awesome things to win a title as every champion does. They beat a very worthy opponent (Portland) in the first round that many thought was a bad matchup for them and could have upset them. They swept the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. They beat the next big thing in this league in the Oklahoma City Thunder. Then they beat the super-villain Miami. Heat. You can’t ask for much more from a champion.

Personal sidenote: I rooted most for Oklahoma City this season. They are now my favorite team. I rooted for them about as hard as I rooted for Dallas in 2006 and Phoenix in the years between. I knew they were young this year and never really believed they could win a title this season. Likewise I thought Dallas was too old and didn’t feel as attached to them until the Finals and mostly because of my love for Dirk and 2006. As much as I love the Thunder, at no point during the Western Conference Finals was I upset when Dallas was winning or looking like they would win (Russell Westbrook had a lot to do with this). And if I would of known that Miami was going to make it to the Finals this year and I could pick the team that would beat them, I would have picked Dallas in a heartbeat.

Is the Heat hate warranted?

Never before has a team drawn this kind of reaction from the public and this kind of hate from everyone except their hometown in sports. Last year I wanted LeBron to join Dwyane Wade in Miami and try to form a super team. I wanted it from day one. I thought it would be better for the league and I think it was. I basically rooted against them all year despite wanting them to form and I had my reasons.

This team should have been easy to root for and like this year. But they just weren’t. Beginning with the celebration after the Decision they just put me and everyone else off. LeBron acted like a victim all season like he didn’t understand the hate and why Cleveland was upset with him. They acted entitled and talked about winning multiple titles before accomplishing anything. At the same time no team celebrated more on the court than this team. You can’t feel entitled and celebrate that much. It just doesn’t make sense.

They can win everyone back though and it may get easier because they have now lost in year one. All that really needs to happen is footage similar to that shown of Dirk shooting in an empty gym showing up somewhere on the Internet instead just of LeBron and Wade going one-on-one working their asses off in the offseason. That’s all fans really want is for athletes that get paid millions to work as hard as possible so it seems like they care about the product they give their fans.

Was this Heat team really that good?

The Heat formed this year and were basically a brand new team with no chemistry from the first game and eventually made it to the Finals somehow by the end of the season. They had a ton of flaws that were exposed some during the regular season, then less in the playoffs, then it seemed they could overcome those flaws and then it all came clashing down in the Finals when Dallas outclassed them.

Once they got to the Finals and beat Boston and Chicago, everyone seemed to want to forget that this was a team that had some serious flaws (rebounding, interior offense, ability to defend a point guard or big). To be fair to them, they had some pretty good fortune just to make it to the Finals.

Like I said before, this was such a convenient time for Miami to form and have a shot at winning a title without becoming that good of a team yet. They didn’t become a great team. They had their moments and could play unbelievable defense at times but sometimes that had more to do with their opponent.

I say that they weren’t that good. They showed flashes of brilliance and of what they could become. They are better off for losing this year because maybe it will motivate them to really get better and do something different to improve in the coming years.

I’m not even sure what they are going to be able to do so different in the future though. They are already so locked into their core three guys. They seem to play a certain way and want to play that way no matter what. I don’t think that LeBron learning to play in the post will solve everything although it should help. I think Wade has three or four years left at best in him at an elite level. The chances that this team becomes a dynasty really all lies with LeBron James and if he can take himself and his teammates to new heights.

 

Alright, that is all for now. I probably tried to do too much in this article (the opposite of LeBron) but whatever. I’m so happy for Dallas. This feels like such a good thing for sports and life for Dallas to have won like this making up for 2006 and validating Dirk as a pantheon player in NBA history.

It looks like I now can hold off on readying my space pod that was set to take me to another planet and into exile if Miami had won. I really did feel kind of like Yoda at the end of Episode III as he was feeling all of the jedis die off when Miami was making this run and playing so well. Andrew! That’s enough! You’re making Star Wars jokes! Stop typing!

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