Dirk Nowitzki has been incredibly loyal to the Dallas Mavericks through some great individual and collective successes as well as some tough failures. But the question needs to be asked: have the Mavericks been loyal to Dirk in recent seasons?
Let’s backtrack for a second here.
In the 2005-06 season, Dirk led the Mavs to a 60-22 season and had one of his greatest playoff performances that spring. His signature moment came in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals in San Antonio, where he scored a huge basket down the stretch of the game all the while drawing a foul, which sent the game into overtime where Dallas ultimately prevailed.
The Mavs eventually made it to the NBA Finals, where Dwyane Wade’s Miami Heat defeated them with many questioning Nowitzki’s toughness.
The following season, Dallas entered the playoffs with the best record in the NBA at 67-15, but were eliminated in the first round by the Golden State Warriors as the soon to be crowned league MVP struggled in the series, producing 19.7 points and 11.3 rebounds per game on 38.3 percent field goal shooting.
Things were ugly for the big German.
He did manage to rebound in his ensuing postseason appearances, but because the Mavericks were sent home fairly early, no one seemed to remember their occurrences.
Then, in the spring of 2011, everything came together.
The Mavericks made an amazing run through the Western Conference by defeating the Portland Trail Blazers, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder to finally earn a rematch in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.
The headlines prior to the start of the title round revolved mostly around the Heat and the vitriol they had earned throughout the season, but the one big narrative that involved Nowitzki was his contrast vis-à-vis LeBron James.
James had left the Cleveland Cavaliers to play with better teammates in Miami while Nowitzki had displayed his loyalty to Dallas by remaining with them through thick and thin on his way back to another Finals appearance.
And then, things really got juicy as Nowitzki kept producing huge outputs during the 2011 championship round, especially in the fourth quarter while James pulled a few disappearing acts.
Nowitzki’s Mavs prevailed and the German was hailed as a hero for winning the title in convincing fashion over the favored Heat and doing it with the one and only franchise he had played with.
The Mavericks’ victory made noise in Cleveland and around the country as everyone breathed a sigh of relief given their distaste for LeBron’s exit of Cleveland (the Decision) as well as the infamous proclamation that he would win a multitude of championships with his new team.
Many argued after the 2011 Finals that Dirk did what LeBron should have done and shown some loyalty to Cleveland and stayed and won there.
But in a twist of irony, Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, never brought back that championship team.
At the conclusion of the 2011 postseason, Cuban allowed the team’s best interior defender and arguably the second best player on the team in Tyson Chandler to simply walk away.
And just like that, a championship contender was done.
Few expected Dallas to repeat or even realistically contend for the title given that one of their best players was allowed to depart.
The reasoning behind the move was that the Mavericks wanted to be huge players in free agency in the summer of 2012, when Dwight Howard and Deron Williams would be available.
Deron opted to stay with the Nets franchise while Howard waived his early termination clause in his contract, which means he will only become a free agent in this upcoming summer.
Those developments as well as Chris Paul’s impending free agency at the conclusion of this season led to Dallas making the decision to acquire players whose contracts are on the books for the 2012-13 season alone. Indeed, the idea of perhaps bringing in Paul and/or Howard was just too tempting to pass up.
But in the same breath, that means that Cuban essentially sacrificed two seasons of Dirk’s career just for a shot at bringing in talent, when he already had a championship team to begin with.
Granted, there were financial realities that the team had to face and that certainly played a role into the decision making process, but the fact still remains that Dirk gave the franchise his all and stayed with them during the times he lacked help.
And despite those constraints, he eventually got the right cast around him and he helped them much like they helped him deliver a championship to the city of Dallas.
But the recent turn of events make it as such that no one outside of that very same city seems to recall that title, because that team was never given a fair shot to defend it.
We often begrudge the players’ lack of loyalty but usually give management and ownership a pass on it.
Just look at where it got Dirk…
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