MIAMI — Dirk Nowitzki knocked down a jumper in front of the Miami Heat bench, clenched his fist and held a pose. He slowly marched down the floor, not to gloat, but to hold onto a moment that he didn’t want to escape. He was minutes away from winning his first NBA championship — the one Nowitzki heard he would never win because he lacked the necessary intangibles and fortitude to deliver the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the Dallas Mavericks.
As the clock wound down on the Mavericks’ 105-95 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, Nowitzki held his hands above his head, almost in disbelief, and leaned over, as if he was finally free of the burden that he has carried the past 13 years — getting hammered for his toughness and inability to win the big game. Jason Terry later walked up to him and gave him a hug.
Finally we saw the soul-crushing, double-digit defeat we’d expected, although not by the all-star-laden Heat. After coming back to win at the ends three of the first five Finals games, the Mavericks tried something new: Building a lead before halftime and keeping it.
Dallas fans cheered their team's first NBA title as the Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat, 105-95, in Game 6 of the NBA finals in Miami on Sunday night. (June 12)
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For five years, Nowitzki and Terry had to live with the agony of having Dwyane Wade and the Heat stomp on their championship dreams in Dallas. But they were able to turn it around, despite being severe underdogs, and closed out the star-studded Heat in the same arena that Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James celebrated their merger with a smoke-filled entrance 11 months ago.
“Obviously, that was one of my most disappointing losses in my career, to lose the final series after being up 2-0,” Nowitzki said of the loss in the 2006 NBA Finals. “It took so long just to get here. I don’t really know if it would have made a difference. Just this feeling, to be on the best team of the world is just indescribable.
“That’s why this is extra special,” Nowitzki said. “If I would have won one early in my career, maybe I would have never put all the work and the time in that I have over the last 13 years. So this is amazing.”
Nowitzki, the lone all-star on his team, was able to trump a heralded and hyped team with three all-stars in James, Bosh and Wade. He didn’t have the best shooting night, as he missed 18 of 27 shots, but became the second European player to win Finals MVP after scoring 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. He averaged 26 points throughout the series, playing despite a torn tendon in his left middle finger and overcoming a sinus infection to have the winning basket in Game 4.
Though Nowitzki struggled in the finale, Terry continued to encourage him as he walked up to Nowitzki during a fourth-quarter timeout to tell him, “Keep pushing. Remember ’06.”
Terry had the championship trophy tattooed on his right biceps during the preseason, believing that the Mavericks were destined to win it all. Still carrying memories of that forgettable collapse against the Heat in 2006 — and his missed three-pointer that could’ve forced overtime in the closeout game — Terry led all scorers with 27 points as the veteran-laden Mavericks were finally able to claim the rings that had eluded each of them for their entire careers.
None had waited longer than the 38-year-old Jason Kidd, who finally won after two failed trips with the New Jersey Nets. Dallas also won the title for the first time in its 31-year history and Don Carter, the Mavericks’ first owner, initially accepted the trophy from NBA Commissioner David Stern.