Monday, June 13, 2011

Dallas Mavericks: The Example of a Champion

The Dallas Mavericks finally got to spray champagne.  For Dirk, Jet, J Kidd, Chandler, Marion, Carlisle, Cuban, and the rest of the team, there must be no better feeling after so many times coming up just short of a title. 

But, I wish they would have toasted wine instead.  It would have been more fitting.  Champagne is exciting and flashy, it's very Miami.   Wine is distinguished and the best ones are aged, just like the NBA's newest champions.

The Dallas Mavericks capped off one of the most exciting NBA seasons in years by winning one of the most exhilarating finals in recent memory.

Since June of last year, when LeBron James and Chris Bosh decided to join Dwayne Wade in South Beach, this season was all about the Heat and starting what they believed would be a dynasty run on championships.

To be fair, there is so much talent on that team that they probably will get fitted for a few rings, but over the past two weeks, the Mavericks taught them how to be champions and it starts with probably the most unlikely person.

As great as Dirk and J. Terry were in the finals, the most credit for Dallas' title has to go to Mark Cuban.  The outspoken, often over the top, owner made adjustments in his demeanor and roster that were nothing short of remarkable.

This series begged for Cuban to be a walking sound bite.  He could have taken verbal jabs at Miami.  He had plenty of material.  Whether it was Chris Bosh looking like a raptor, LeBron's non-existent fourth quarter performances, or Wade's flops that indicate his girlfriend Gabrielle Union is giving him acting lessons on off-days, there was no shortage of punch lines waiting for Cuban to capitalize on.

A couple of year ago, Cuban would have been on ESPN daily, but he matured.  He knew Miami needed no more fuel added to the fire and knew the finals alone were enough of a distraction  that he kept quiet and let his team's play do the talking.

That's because he believed in the guys he brought together.

Dallas does not have a sexy roster.  Dirk is elite.  He is no question one of the all-time greats.  But Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, and Shawn Marion, who have all had outstanding careers (Kidd a hall-of-fame career), are past their primes.  But, nonetheless Cuban believed.

Many considered Tyson Chandler, the former number two overall pick, a bust.  Cuban saw a different player, believed, and Chandler responded by defending and rebounding in the biggest moments.

Cuban believed in a five-foot nothing point guard (with a BEAUTIFUL girlfriend), J.J Barea, who torched defenses throughout the playoffs.

He put his faith in a man written off as a stepping stone coach who could only get a team so far, but not to a title.  Cuban saw differently and was right.

Cuban, like a true business man, believed in his product and did what needed to be done to get Dallas to the title.  He deserves a ton of credit.

But, Cuban can do only so much.  Players have to play.  Dallas' players played.

Dirk's performances were legendary.  A pair of double-digit fourth quarter comebacks, clutch shot after clutch shot, he was simply spectacular.  He erased the painful memory of the 2006 finals collapse, by putting together one of the most complete playoff performances ever.

He also did what the world wishes LeBron did.  Dirk stuck with a franchise that saw highs and lows until the job was done.  For 13-years he and his team's championship fortitude were constantly in question, season after season.  But, Dirk never quit on his team or city and continued to put in the work until he finished on his goal.  A lot is to be said about that kind of commitment and dedication.  There may be no better feeling in sports, ask Elway.

Jason Terry and Jason Kidd overcame careers full of NBA Finals disappointment (three losses combined) by continuing to scratch and claw.  They didn't shy away from challenges of teams with title history - the Lakers - or up-and-coming squads - OKC - instead, they stayed true to and focused on their mission, and tattoo, all to win a title.

The Mavericks are exactly what champions should be.  They are mature, poised, humble, and hungry.

They are who Miami should model themselves after going forward.

From day one, the Heat acted entitled. They held a title celebration months before the PRESEASON even started.  You can't be hungry if you are being fed and feasting on BS.  That's what the Heat did when they bought into the idea that they were about to wear the NBA's crown every year by simply stepping on the floor.

The poses, the mocking, the yells were the ultimate signs of immaturity.  

The Mavs put on a clinic in maturity.  The Heat acted and performed just the opposite.  They were premature in their celebrations in games two and four and never really recovered after Dallas made two of the greatest comebacks in Finals history.

Miami learned a valuable lesson, being hungry is more important than being talented.  Those that figure it out, like the Dallas Mavericks, perform maturely, brilliantly,distinguished, and complete...just like the finest wine.

Cheers, Dallas.

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