Being a Dallas Mavericks fan isn't easy. For years we suffered the ridicule and embarrassment of being one of the worst teams in professional basketball/sports (evidence shows that the answer was both). A turn of fortune saw us acquire the 3 J's in the mid-90's and appear to be gathering a strong team for the future. Two seasons and one ironic love triangle later, the 3 jaded J's were traded, a part of Don Nelson's attempt to clean house and find talent HE liked. This led to what from my experience is the equivalent of basketball hell--in the next three seasons we acquired the following three players: Cherokee Parks (poor man's Christian Laettner...which we already KNEW since he actually played with Christian Laettner!!!), Chris Anstey (white Aussie Nelson called "the future NBA prototype... you can fill in your own jovial acronyms of what THAT "NBA" would stand for), and we TRADED for SHAWN BRADLEY. SHAWN BRADLEY. SHAWN... BRADLEY. There's not enough room between all the parentheses in the world to describe my pain.
So when the Mavericks drafted Dirk... or really, traded away a solid, BLACK collegiate player for Dirk... Don Nelson became the biggest racist on the planet. To me, he did. Another crappy Euro/Cauc player to guarantee us a 15-win season! Whoopee, let's see who's at the top of the draft board for next year!
Now of course, Dirk panned out pretty nicely. But I guess from then on, I've still held a strong interest in race and sports, and in presence or lack of coverage when the two become entangled.
Since 2001, the Mavericks have won 50+ games every season, contesting for a championship each year and seeing defeat from the Kings, Spurs, Suns, and Heat in the later rounds. The only player present throughout this run has been Dirk Nowitzki, who has been surrounded by one of the better supporting casts in basketball. Witnessing this team's transformation--from laughingstock to perennial contender--has been great for me.
But there's just one thing that still bothers me.
Sometimes, Dirk irks me. Or not really Dirk, but the way the media sometimes covers Dirk.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not underappreciative. He's earned the All-Star status, the All-NBA Selections, and the all-around accolades.
But I sometimes feel like he and his buddy Nash are made to be the "Great White Hoop Hopes," when I thought we were past that era.
Here's one thing I've noticed... you remember in the late-Jordan era (man, we're gettin old) how many superstars there were? Jordan...Olajuwon...Barkley...Malone...Shaq... not many. But that was because the definition of a superstar was different. It was a player who changed the ENTIRE game---all 90 feet of the court. Now? It seems like the title has been stretched in order to be a bit more accommodating. I mean, let's face it--Nash and Nowitzki are two of the GREATEST--I said it--GREATEST offensive players in the game's history, but superstar status? I'm not so sold.
And let's put this out on the table... JASON KIDD was Steve Nash LOOOOOONG before Steve Nash was Steve Nash! Remember? Came to the Nets, 2 straight NBA Finals appearances, yet he couldn't beat out Tim Duncan for an MVP, which Nash has now done twice...hmm??? JKidd is almost as good on offense as he is on defense. He's about +3% shooting from being a juggernaut unto himself.
And let's also be honest about THIS... Nowitzki, from the onset of his career, has been the beneficiary of the Mark Cuban Bed & Breakfast they call the Mavericks organization. Every decision was made to benefit him.... Couldn't play defense? ONLY give him teammates who are solid defenders. Not the most aggressive rebounder? Josh Howard, Diop, and Dampier should help with that. NOT CLUTCH? Let Jet Terry pilot the late game heroics! And on top of that, Dirk is receiving one of the best and most underrated coaching jobs in the history of sports. Have you ever seen an entire 15-man roster of players improve under the direction of one man? Avery Johnson has made every player he's coached better, and no one has benefited from it more than Dirk. Just imagine... give KG a team that's suited to his strengths and weaknesses. Give Paul Piearce a Josh Howard and Jason Terry. Give Jason Kidd a 10-man rotation, or Allen Iverson a no-nonsense, coachin-like-its-ABCs coach like Avery.
What I'm saying is, the media rides certain players--who happen to be...well let's not be obvious--for not winning, for not coming up big. Yet they shower accolades at two guys who--yes, they are--and who have yet to win anything, despite being a part of two of the best organizations, and with some of the best teammates, in professional basketball.
What Dwayne Wade did to Dirk in the Finals was a revelation. As a Mavs fan, yes, I was pissed at the calls. I wanted to choke a ref! But let's face it--we put Wade's back to the wall, started planning our championship parade, turned around, and looked up at a 4-2 closed case. Dirk did not show up--he got shown up. And before then and even more since he's looked increasingly shook up about it. I know what it is. He feels the pressure. He sees the whole world telling him who he is and what he is... but he knows the truth. He is a great offensive player, a freak of nature, but NOT a superstar. In order for the Mavericks to get back to the Finals in this year's loaded west, he'll have to pretty much prove me wrong.
And boy, I hope he can.
The Starting Five (Oct. 19) - * * *
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