It was just five short years ago.
Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and a collective band of misfits scaled the NBA playoff mountain, planted their flag and were crowned NBA Champs.
After 31 years the Mavs had finally won something, but now fans have given up on the owner and front office that brought this city a championship.
Sure, they ripped up the 2011 title team in an attempt to upgrade their roster for another run at the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the prime of Dirk’s career and they failed. They struck out on Deron Williams in the summer of 2012. Then, Dwight Howard in the summer of 2013. Then, there was DeAndre Jordan this past summer. But, it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
Now down three games to one to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the First Round of the 2016 NBA Playoffs, with their backs against the wall on a team riddled with injuries, the Mavericks are running on empty.
Tonight, many expect the Mavs to just walk into Oklahoma City and wave the white flag and give up, but they won’t. Why? The answer is simple: because that’s a defeatist mentality and Dallas is a franchise that wins.
MFFLs have been spoiled. They expect a deep run in the playoffs every single season. But let’s be let’s be realistic here. This is the highest level of basketball that you can play in the entire world. Things happen, misfortune strikes, just as we’ve seen in the past with free agency and now with the Mavs laundry list of injuries.
It is impossible to discount the top tier of NBA talent that exists on the best teams in the NBA right now. Sure, right now the Mavs don’t have the talent or even the bodies at this point to logistically compete for an NBA championship, but let’s not discount how hard this team has fought time after time with the odds stacked against them. They don’t always win, but they always fight and that’s what this team will continue to do tonight.
If you’ve learned anything about this Dallas Mavericks franchise since Mark Cuban took over into 2000, you know that the Mavs are simply not going to just give up. If anything we should all be rooting for Dirk Nowitzki, enjoying what is left of his historic, legendary career.
Thirteen-time NBA All-Star. Four-time All-NBA First Team. Five-time All-NBA Second Team. Three-time All-NBA Third Team. The 2006 Three-Point Shootout Champion. The Mavericks’ All-Time leader in points, rebounds, field goals, three-point field goals, free throws and starts.
Sixth All-Time on the NBA’s scoring list. The 2007 NBA Most Valuable Player. 2011 NBA Champion and Finals MVP.
A visibly frustrated and exhausted Dirk makes the post game walk to his locker, likely for the final time in '15-'16 pic.twitter.com/b1JUhkHTJH
— David Watkins (@DWat_Golf) April 24, 2016
At age 37, Nowitzki continues to put the entire franchise on his back night after night after night. At the end of Game 4 on Saturday night, fans at the American Airlines Center chanted “Dirk, Dirk, Dirk…,” as he headed to the bench in the finals seconds of the Mavs 119-108 loss to the Thunder.
He finished the game with a team-high 27 points while adding eight rebounds, playing a team-high 40 minutes.
“Hey, we’ve all got to enjoy it while we can,” Carlisle said. “We’re seeing one of the most special athletes in sports history and doing it at an amazingly high level at really an advanced stage in his career.”
On Saturday, fans wanted to show Nowitzki they were appreciative of the effort he gave, not only that night, but all season and continues to get to this franchise.
Remember the feeling just five years ago. Remember the times now with Dirk. That’s what Mavs fans have left to root for. Remember where this franchise has been, appreciate where they are now and what this franchise will be left with once he leaves. Enjoy it while it lasts.
“Just fighting till the end,” Nowitzki said after Saturday night’s game. “Fighting till it’s over. We were always thinking make one more push, make one more push.”
Tonight, will be no different. The Mavs will continue to fight and Nowitzki will once again lead that charge.