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The Dallas View: Storybook Ending: Dallas Mavericks 2011 NBA Champions [AUDIO]

Update 4:45p, June 13, 2011

Andrew Kaufmann appeared on New Zealand’s ‘Radio Sport’ with Tony Veitchy earlier today to talk about the Mavericks win and what it means for Dallas.

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Original Post 6:30a, June 13, 2011

Every great story needs adversity. Every great story needs a hero, and a villain or two to act as his foil.

And if you’re a Mavericks fan, this great story has a happy ending: the Dallas Mavericks are the 2011 NBA Champions.

Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

The story began in 1980 when Don Carter (center, wearing cowboy hat) convinced the NBA to bring a team to Dallas. Until now, the team had one consistent element: disappointment, which peaked during the 2006 NBA Finals.

But on Sunday, the Mavericks proved that the 2006 Finals disappointment was a lesson you learn from and grow from. It was a chapter that had to be written for the story to become truly great. It provided the adversity and the heartbreak that true champions overcome during their storybook travels.

Everyone in Dallas, myself included, was sure that the Mavericks were going to be world champions in 2006 when they went up 2-0 in dominating fashion against this same Miami Heat. The disappointment of watching the Heat celebrate their championship on Dallas’ home court provided an image that I could never forget – and certainly neither could owner Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowitzki, or Jason Terry.

Nowitzki and Terry, the only two players left on the Mavs’ roster from that series, have had to live with that failure for 5 years, and were facing having to live their entire lives with the knowledge that they might have let their one great chance at a championship slip through their fingers.

Luckily, every year brings new hope. At the beginning of these 2011 Playoffs, we all looked at the brackets. We looked at the Eastern Conference. Boston was aging. Chicago had limited offense around Derrick Rose. Miami had their superstar lineup and were the favorites to come out of the East.

It seemed like a far-fetched dream, given the Mavericks’ recent playoff failures. But, what if… what if… what if the Mavs made it back to the NBA Finals? And what if they faced the Miami Heat again? And beat them?

It would be the perfect storybook ending. The perfect way to bring redemption to Dallas after the gut-wrenching 2006 series. But the Mavs had a long way to go, and a lot of doubters. Remember the Portland series? Remember how many people picked the Blazers to win that series, especially after the Mavs gave up a 15-point 4th quarter lead?

Seems like a lifetime ago.

The Portland Trailblazers put up a great fight, but went down. The Los Angeles Lakers went into the series as favorites, but imploded and were simply dominated in every phase of the game. The Oklahoma City Thunder were favored but got beat by the Mavs’ maturity, shotmaking, and savvy.

Meanwhile, in the East, the Heat plowed through their opponents with relative ease. Suddenly, the far-fetched dream became a possibility: the Mavericks and Heat were going to be facing off in the Finals again.

The denouement of our story had arrived. And the Mavs and the Heat could not have been more different. From the Dallas point of view, the NBA gods, or karma, or fate, or serendipity – whatever you happen to believe in – owed us this series.

Dirk Nowitzki and his Dallas teammates represent everything that is right with sport.

Chris Chambers, Getty Images

Dirk makes the perfect hero, openly announcing his allegiance to the city of Dallas and saying he never gave any real consideration to leaving as a free agent. He’s a humble man that works as hard as anybody, day in and day out, jump shot after jump shot. As a team, the Mavs play defense, rotate the ball on offense, and believe in each other. Dirk’s supporting cast, from Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler, and J.J. Barea on down the roster, all have roles of varying size but each embraces his role.

The Mavericks’ roster was carefully assembled with pieces to complement each other. The Heat brought in superstars, regardless of how well they fit together – and practically declared themselves champions during the preseason.

Thus they become our story’s villains. To many (but certainly not all) fans, the Heat represent many of the problems in modern professional sports. LeBron James leaves behind a city that adored him and that he grew up in to be in a flashier market with other superstars. An egomaniac that pronounced himself “The King” and “The Chosen One” before creating a made-for-TV special that turned much of a nation against him – and almost gallingly not understanding why his actions were so unpopular. The topper? The preseason celebration of James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade, all proclaiming their impending unstoppable-ness.

The drama was set. All that was left was to play the games.

And the games did not disappoint. Tightly played matches. Fierce defense. Back and forth twists and turns.

Nowitzki’s legend grew with his Game 2 game-winner despite a mangled finger and by fighting through sickness in Game 4 in an efficient performance. 4th quarters belonged to Dirk.

Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images

At the same time, James’ image quickly tarnished with his 4th quarter failures. Questions were coming from all over – is James not the player we believed him to be? That he keeps telling us he is?

And then James and Wade embarrassed themselves and further villainized themselves by childishly mocking Dirk’s sickness in front of the TV cameras. Better still, they showed immaturity in refusing to apologize but rather decided to blame the media.

These are things karma does not overlook. Game 6 epitomized the series and brought karmic justice to the Heat.

The Mavericks played as a team, and just about the entire roster contributed. Dirk was ice cold, but Barea and Terry came out on fire. Terry scored 27 points and was clearly the MVP of Game 6, even if Dirk got the series MVP. Chandler’s rebounding was massive – keeping possessions alive and tapping out balls left and right. Kidd had 8 assists and only 2 turnovers to go with his now-customary clutch shooting. Marion cleaned up the garbage as usual, with 12 points and 8 boards. DeShawn Stephenson was sharpshooting from 3-point land like never before. Brian Cardinal provided gritty defense, smart play, and even dropped in his own long-range shots. Even little-used Ian Mahinmi had a strong game, taking smart fouls, and even hitting a buzzer-beating jumper.

And in the 4th quarter, it was Dirk’s time. His jump shot returned, he drove the lane, and as the Mavericks pulled away he emerged an NBA champion and Finals MVP.

The Dallas Mavericks won the championship the right way, with class and teamwork.

Even Cuban made all the right moves as he showed appreciation for the man that started the story 31 years earlier: he had Don Carter accept the O’Brien Trophy from David Stern.

And with that trophy presentation, the Mavericks came full circle and fulfilled their destiny.

The unlikely fairy tale ending the city of Dallas was afraid to dream of came true. The Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat. The Dallas Mavericks are 2011 NBA Champions.

Andrew Kaufmann lives in Dallas and is enjoying this NBA championship to its fullest. Follow him on Twitter – @andrewk

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