More than 250,000 revelers flocked to Victory Plaza Thursday morning to celebrate Dallas’ NBA title with the Mavericks. Fans endured thick crowds and North Texas heat (including a few cases of heat exhaustion) for a chance to celebrate the victory many of them have been waiting five years to see.
The Mavericks’ victory in Game 6 Monday night gave the team the first championship in Dallas Mavericks franchise history.
For owner Mark Cuban, it was a legacy that had haunted his team ever since they blew a 2-0 series lead against the Miami Heat in the 2006 Finals.
For Dirk Nowitzki, it was a chance to set the record straight. After years of being labeled as a soft, weak European who couldn’t win with the stakes at their highest, Nowitzki took home the Finals MVP after a postseason in which he was nearly unguardable.The victory also gave future Hall of Famers Nowitzki and Jason Kidd their long awaited championship rings.
For LeBron James and the Heat, the series was a mighty comeuppance for a team that claimed it would win “not five, not six, not seven” championships.
Many people are drawn to well-defined storylines in sports. The apparent hubris of the Heat and the decade long quest for a ring by veterans such as Nowitzki, Kidd, and Jason Terry created a ready-made “Good vs. Evil” storyline that the media perpetrated throughout the series.
When LeBron James began disappearing in the fourth quarter of games, averaging less than three points per fourth quarter, critics began deriding the Heat as a team of frontrunners that could dominate weaker opponents but lacked the mental fortitude to trade punches with another heavyweight.
These storylines and subplots coalesced in Game 6, when the largest crowd to watch a Game 6 in 11 years tuned in to see the Mavs close out the series. The game drew a 15.0 rating nationwide and a 39.2 rating in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. After the victory, Mavs fans spilled into the streets and remained at the American Airlines Center where the franchise hosted a massive watch party. Stores that reopened late to sell championship merchandise were flooded with fans that had waited thirty years to see the Mavericks emerge as world champions.
The victory also came in the first year of Dirk Nowitzki’s new contract, which keeps him in Dallas through 2014. Neither Nowitzki nor Cuban expected the Mavs to compete for a title again so quickly, especially after faltering in the first round of the playoffs last season.
However, the team came together when former stars such as Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion accepted diminished roles in order to benefit the team and chase the dream of an NBA championship. Past Nowitzki, the Mavs played without a second superstar but instead relied on a team-oriented scheme that favored tough defense and exquisite ball movement over the shoot-first mentality that pervades much of the league. After Game 6, Nowitzki called the championship “a victory for team basketball.”
With Nowitzki in his prime and other veterans such as Kidd still performing at a high level, the Mavs still hope to contend next year. Much of their potential resides in their ability to re-sign Tyson Chandler, who’s defense in the center played a large role in allowing the Mavericks to shut down opposing offenses. Additionally, there are questions concerning next season due to the lack of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Regardless of how next season plays out for Dallas, the city and the team have much to celebrate after this season’s Cinderella run to the championship.