Monday, May 16, 2011

Nowitzki Eyes Chance at Fairy Tale Ending

Sports are an absolute. Unlike politics, sports have a definite winner and loser. It's the one universal thing about sports that attracts fans. We, the fans, enjoy knowing that at the end of any sporting event there will be one team that's victorious, while another will soak in defeat. We enjoy knowing that with all the stats and variables taking place on the field of play, the only thing that matters is the final score.

The same can be said when looking back at a player's career. Whether right or wrong, we enjoy labeling a player "good" or "great" by whether or not he won a championship. Why is that? Why does a title, a championship, hold so much merit into how a player is viewed for the rest of time?

Simply put, a metal trophy signifies the purest example of someone being the best, of living up to their expectations.

As kids when we imagined ourselves playing in the NFL or NBA, we do not imagine scoring the winning touchdown in the NFC Championship Game or hitting the game winning three pointer in the Eastern Conference Finals. No, we imagined winning the Super Bowl or the NBA Finals.

We imagined being number one.

I mention all of this because of one current player still fighting in the NBA playoffs: Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki is a 10x NBA All-Star, a 4x All-NBA First Team member, the 2007 NBA MVP winner and someone who has averaged over 23 points and 8 rebounds for a career. With his 7'0" frame and his patented fadeaway he is as unique of a player as we have ever seen. His style of play has made him unstoppable and when he does hang it up he will probably be in the Top 15 of NBA Career Scoring Leaders.

In short, Nowitzki's career has been expectional. But through it all the one glaring omission is that Nowitzki has never won a title. And if Nowitzki never wins a title the only thing that will remain on his record is the note, "Can't Win the Big One."

This is what I like so much about the playoffs in any sport. I enjoy watching a cherished veteran, a future Hall-of-Famer put up absolutely everything in hopes of getting the one thing missing from his trophy case.

Since the debacle now known as the 2006 NBA Finals, Dallas has gagged in almost every way imaginable way. In 2007 they got bounced in six games in the first round to the 8th seeded Golden State Warriors. In 2008 they got knocked out again in the first round by the New Orleans Hornets and in 2009 Dallas lost in the first round to the San Antonio Spurs.

I like the Oklahoma City Thunder and what they have going on with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. I like the Chicago Bulls and Derek Rose, but neither of those teams have the intrigue or appeal that the Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki bring to the table.

We see it all the time in sports, but rarely does it happen where the veteran going for his last shot at a championship grabs that elusive ring. We saw guys like Charles Barkley fight valiantly to get another shot in the finals, but fall short in the postseason. We have seen the likes of players like Karl Malone lose three NBA Finals series (1997, 1998, 2001) with 1997 and 1998 ending in the most dramatic fashion.

You know what was one of the bigger things I enjoyed about the Saints winning the 2009 Super Bowl? I enjoyed seeing a 12 year veteran like Darren Sharper, who contemplated retirement, who was let go by the Minnesota Vikings because his playing days were long gone, who was a part of the Green Packers team that lost Super Bowl XXXII, stand up and fight through it all and win a championship. Those moments sell me sports. Those moments bring me back. The glitz and glamour are nice, but seeing that guy who has worked tirelessly his entire career finally get that moment where he can put one index finger in the air is what resonates the most.

On April 23rd the Dallas Mavericks coughed up an 18 point 4th quarter lead against the Portland Trailblazers. With the win the Blazers tied the series at 2-2. We all thought the Dallas Mavericks were on course for another postseason collapse. Fast forward 15 days to May 8th and the Dallas Mavericks were putting the finishing touches on the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers with a 122-86 thrashing.

Nowitzki's situation remains unique because that window we all thought was closed for his moment of glory still seems to be ajar. Here's a guy who has been with the Dallas Mavericks through thick and thin. How fitting would it be for Nowitzki, having been victimized countless times for his team's failures, to overcome it all and take home the title? Better yet how fitting would it be for Dirk Nowitzki, loyal Maverick and all, to take down the evil Miami Heat empire that took away his dream five years ago?

It would be nothing short of a fairy tale.

No comments: