Congratulations to Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks on becoming the 2011 NBA Champions. Nobody deserves a championship as much as Dirk, and it was only fitting that in a playoffs where Dirk’s magnificence was the only consistent force for Dallas, his teammates finally picked him up in Game 6. It was the collective effort of Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, and JJ Barea that carried the Mavericks to victory. The road the Mavericks traveled, through the gritty Portland Trailblazers, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, the burgeoning Oklahoma City Thunder, and the mastercrafted Miami Heat, proved how spectacular these NBA playoffs were. And the Heat’s road to the finals was no less difficult, going through the optimistic Philadelphia 76ers, the defending Eastern Conference-champion Boston Celtics, and the team with the best record, the Chicago Bulls.
These playoffs provided a level of buzz for pro hoops unseen since the Jordan years. Passive fans transformed into LeBron haters who tuned into the Heat games just to root against him. The Mavericks’ international array of players brought viewers from Dirk’s home in Wurzburg, Germany, to Barea’s dedicated Puerto Rican following. These playoffs showcased the NBA’s greatness and its insanity, and the NBA will hopefully capitalize on the resurgent worldwide interest in pro basketball.
We witnessed the epic genius of Dirk, the resilience of Rajon Rondo, and the unrewarded dominance of Dwight Howard. We witnessed a momentous run of greatness from the Memphis Grizzlies, who defeated the dynastic 1st-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the first round, and made a leader out of Zach Randolph. We saw clutch comebacks from the Heat and the Mavericks in the Conference finals. We also saw epic collapses, from the Los Angeles Lakers being swept by the Mavericks, to the Orlando Magic being surprisingly ousted in the first round by the Atlanta Hawks. We saw the growing pains of the league’s next wave of superstars such as Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant. We saw new comrades Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire struggle, and lost souls like Jason Kidd and Peja Stojakovic finally triumph.
The best part about it all is that nobody knows what will happen next. Of course it is the Heat that face the most questions, but new questions arise as to whether Durant or D-Rose will ever reach the finals stage. Elsewhere, questions about old age plague teams like the Celtics, Spurs, and even the Mavericks. And what about the Lakers? Can Kobe find inspiration from critics finally questioning whether he can still lead a team to a championship? This league-wide intrigue should sustain interest throughout the summer, and expect the NBA to come back bigger and better than ever in October.