It’s common knowledge in basketball circles that the Dallas Mavericks aren’t big fans of the Miami Heat. Dirk Nowitzki, the best and most important player in the history of the Mavericks, has said in the past that his feelings about the Heat are “as close as it gets” to hate for him. And you’d be hard-pressed to find an MFFL (Mavs Fan For Life) who wouldn’t let Nowitzki speak for them regarding all things basketball.
The disdain Dallas holds for South Beach started, of course, in the summer of 2006 during the NBA Finals when Dallas had the Heat in an 0-2 hole until Dwyane Wade stepped to the free throw line in the fourth quarter of Game 3 and didn’t walk away from it until he hoisted the Finals MVP and Larry O’Brien trophies after Game 6. He shot a lot of free throws in that series, and the discrepancy is so dramatic that rumors of Mark Cuban hiring a retired FBI agent to investigate the incident still surface occasionally. To have the team’s first NBA Championship dangled in front of their face, just out of reach, only to have it snatched away at the last second by whistle after whistle after whistle is enough to elicit resentment for the team that took it away.
After that there was the sense of superiority and entitlement polluting the Miami air and permeating the rest of the league after The Decision — or maybe that started during The Decision, considering LeBron James decided to make a television show out of his decision as a free agent. He even gave it a twist ending. It really ramped up during the famed “not five, not six, not seven…” speech James delivered at the celebration in honor of the Heat’s new Big Three before they ever played a game together.
It all culminated for the Mavericks in the 2011 Finals, the first year James, Wade and Chris Bosh played together. No one expected Dallas to make it to the Finals before Nowitzki made a public proclamation that he didn’t plan on finishing the season with anything but an NBA Championship — a statement he made through astonishing performance after astonishing performance during the playoffs. Even after Dallas reached the Finals, they were considered an overwhelming underdog matched up against the all-powerful, all-deserving Heat. Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea and DeShawn Stevenson stood no chance against James, Bosh and Wade, even if they were allowed to play six-on-three.
But they didn’t play six-on-three; they played five-on-five. And we know how that series ended.
James and Wade mocked Nowitzki in the media after Game 4 of those Finals, in which Nowitzki competed at a high level with flu-like symptoms including a fever over 100 degrees. He finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds and scored the game-winning basket with 14 seconds to go, which tied the series at 2-2. The two Miami superstars feigned sickness in front of cameras the next day, evidently calling into question the credibility of Nowitzki’s reported Game 4 sickness. Mavericks fans did not appreciate that.
But here we are, three years later, and James’ Heat are one victory over the Indiana Pacers away from a fourth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals; and something tells me that, in a secret corner at the back of the mind — or heart — of Mavs Nation, there’s a hope that the rival continues to win.
But surely that’s ridiculous, right? Nothing could lead to that. Except for the pride that continues to live on through the fact that the 2010-11 Mavericks remain the only team to defeat the Heat since the airing of The Decision. Every slow-motion shot of James pounding his chest and making loud noises at the conclusion of another Heat postseason victory reminds everyone that only one team has ever kept that adrenaline-driven joy from him in his time with the Heat (for Mavs fans, anyway). And that has to feel good. The only thing that could take that away would be another Miami loss during the Big-Three era.
But Mavs fans probably wouldn’t take a Heat disappointment too hard.
Brian Ogle is a Dallas Mavericks writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @TheOgle.