I just finished watching one of the greatest NBA Finals series I’ve ever seen. At long last, the Dallas Mavericks finally did it. They won the first championship in the history of the franchise, and they did it in dramatic fashion. For years, the Mavs have been looking for another superstar to bring in alongside of Dirk Nowitzki, but it turns out that they didn’t need that. They did it with one superstar and a team of veterans living up to their potential. Coach Carlisle called this a victory for team basketball, and that’s exactly what this was.
This title is a long time in coming for long-time fans. About 14 years ago when I was a seminary student, I took a job at the Tom Landry Fitness Center in Dallas, Texas. I ended up becoming one of the managers of this facility, which was also the gym where the Mavs practiced. I wasn’t a big fan when I got there, but I became one after.
The team wasn’t contending for anything back then, and they were really kind of down-and-out as far as NBA teams go. I’ll just give one example of how humble their accommodations were. During one of their practices one evening, the back of their shot clock fell out. It literally just fell apart. I was called in even though I didn’t know a thing about shot clocks. I grabbed a butter knife from one of the kitchen areas, scaled a ladder, and fixed the shot clock. It struck me thenâ€”as it does even nowâ€”that your organization has to be in a pretty bad place when your equipment is falling apart and you have to rely on some no-name with a butter knife to fix it. There just didn’t seem to be any excellence in the Mavs organization as a whole back then, and it was reflected in the team’s performance. These were the days of Michael Finley and a string of other players who seemed to be coming and going with great rapidity (e.g., Dennis Rodman, Christian Laetner, etc.).
All of that changed, however, in 1998 when the Mavs acquired Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nashâ€”both of whom became MVP’s and staples of the team (with Michael Finley). They began to turn a corner and made the playoffs for the first time since 1990. It was really great. In 2000, Mark Cuban bought the Mavs and really began to invest in the success of the team. By the early 2000’s, it finally became fun to pull for the Mavericks.
Every Mavs fan has a story about their fandom in the bad old days. That’s mine. And that’s why it’s so gratifying to see them finally win it all. There have been so many lean years. It’s great to end this one with a championship. Congratulations, Mavericks!