And now that Dirk and Dallas’s locker room of redemption has sent the Heat and The Forsaken One into a shell-shocked summer of frustration — one only Dan Gilbert and northeastern Ohio could understand last July when LeBron left without a note (karma’s a killer, young fella) — now comes the lesson to take with him:
Of all the things LeBron James could learn from the past 11 months, and especially the past two weeks, none is more important than the message Jason Kidd and DeShawn Stevenson communicated on Sunday night, the night an old point guard, one 7-foot all-star, a hell of a bench and their teammates dropped the game’s most talented trio to capture the NBA championship:
Being famous and young guarantees nothing.
Ask Kidd, who won his first championship in his 17th year. He knows being lauded as one of the greatest of all-time as a teenager is not a prerequisite to win a title.
“Long wait,” he said, his eyes either red from tears or champagne on Sunday night. “What a journey, man, what a journey.”
Ask Stevenson, another preps-to-pros phenom who lost his explosiveness to injury, feuded with Jerry Sloan in Utah and eventually learned to play defense and knock down important three-pointers, like those in the first half of Game 6. He disrupted people like Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers, who all got technical fouls after a fracas in the first half.
“Worst to first! Worst to first!” Stevenson, Haywood and an injured Caron Butler chanted as they hugged one another after Dallas had closed Miami out, 105-95, referring to leaving the 19- and 26-win Wizards more than a year ago to join an NBA champion in 2011.
“My thing was, even after I couldn’t jump like I used to and people thought I was done, I just did what I could to hang around and stay in the league,” Stevenson added.
Kidd, once the phenom LeBron was, though not as hyped, is 38 years and 81 days old. In his third Finals try, he dusted off his three-point shot, let the ball do the work, used his large, strong mitts to compensate for his inability to stay with LeBron or Dwyane Wade laterally and, best of all, let Dirk be Dirk for a championship coveted for more than 20 years.
“What a warrior he is at 38, chasing one of the most athletic players in this league out there and doing a great job on him,” Nowitzki said after he was named Finals MVP, parlaying a 1-for-12 first half into a 21-point game.
This wasn’t just an NBA Finals for the ages — it was for the aged, the second-chance lifers in the game just wanting one more shot to win it all.
For Nowitzki, who at 32 years old and 13 years in the league was incomparable, erasing any memory of the Mavericks’ meltdown in Miami five years ago in the Finals.