Dirk Nowitzki wins title with Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki’s reaction when the whistle blew shows how much this victory meant to him. With his shirt pulled over his head the man from Würzburg, who had just fulfilled his life’s ambition, crept into the changing rooms with the tears flowing. He had just become the first German to win the American NBA finals – and with the team with which he started his career in the United States in 1998 and has never looked elsewhere.
Nowitzki’s long road to the title
This is more than a little unusual. The path to the title usually involves numerous changes to one of the major teams, like the Los Angeles Lakers around their superstar Kobe Bryant or San Antonio Spurs and their captain Tim Duncan. Promising young players from US colleges or foreign teams join the league via a selection system which allows the least successful clubs of the previous season the first pick of new, young talents. So the biggest talents start out with the weaker teams.
The Mavericks‘ successful seniors
This was how young Dirk Nowitzki was originally chosen by Marc Cuban, the owner of what was then a mediocre team: the Dallas Mavericks. Over the years, Marc Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki became good friends, which is one of the reasons why he has remained loyal to the team for such a long time. Right after the final he even said that it would have felt wrong to win the title with any other team apart from the Mavs. In a basketball-crazy country like the United States this is a sentiment people find hard to understand, especially as Marc Cuban has been trying to put together a really powerful team for years – without noticeable success.
Even before this season, Nowitzki had done without part of his salary so that the Mavs could swell their ranks. The team that then formed around him must at first have looked like a collection of has-beens. Admittedly, he did have one former world-class key player at his side, Jason Kidd, but even important players like Tyson Chandler and Jason Terry were not classed amongst the best in the world.
Mav victory second time round
Led by Nowitzki they used what would probably be their last chance to take the title against Miami Heat with whom Jason Terry and especially Dirk Nowitzki still had a score to settle: the last time they met in the 2006 final, the Mavs lost to the team from Miami, and it was Nowitzki of all people who gave away two decisive penalties. So, in the 2011 final, he also threw off the stigma of long-term failure which had earned him the nickname “No-win-ski”. That era should have come to an end now, too.
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