Capturing a ring does wonders for Dirk’s rep’. Compton’s Tyson Chandler’s perseverance pays off and the Finals TV ratings best last year’s.
By Michael Brown,
Sentinel Sports Writer
Dirk’s Place in NBA History
Once known as the guy who won an MVP in the same year that his team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by eight-seed Golden State, Dirk Nowitzki has not only distanced himself from that reputation, but may have placed his name among the greats.
Already a perennial all-star, winning a first NBA title validates the argument that the future Hall of Famer is probably one of the top-20 players ever.
Prior to the Mavericks defeat of Miami Sunday, players such as Charles Barkley and Karl Malone would have still been considered better than Nowitzki, but that’s before he captured a piece of hardware they lack: A ring.
Yes, that coveted piece of jewelry that oftentimes makes or breaks legends. And in Nowitzki’s case, we can now mention him as a top 10 or 15 player of all time.
That’s due not only to Nowitzki winning, but the way he led Dallas to its first championship ever.
During the Finals, half of the six games were decided by three points or less. Nowitzki was pivotal in every single one of them in the fourth quarter. He matched Miami’s Dwyane Wade and LeBron James’ combined 62 fourth quarter points through six games.
Talk about clutch, Nowitzki was having a terrible game from the field in Game 6, beginning 1-for-12 in the first half. However, he didn’t let the rough start deter his will to win.
In the true fashion of a champion, Nowitzki faced the adversity and helped in other ways by grabbing 11 rebounds. Eventually, his shot was there when he needed it.
Nowitzki closed another game effectively by going 4-for-7 in the fourth, finishing with 21 points and being named Finals MVP. His performance reminded me of Kobe Bryant’s last year in Game 7 against the Celtics.
Bryant was having a horrid shooting night, but rebounded, played defense and got to the foul line, willing the Lakers to their second consecutive title.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle mentioned Nowitzki’s name with Larry Bird earlier in the playoffs.
I wouldn’t go that far just yet. Nowitzki would have to win a couple more titles before I start making Bird comparisons.
However, Nowitzki has three to four more all-star caliber years left. I think when it’s all said and done; he’ll certainly be top-10.
Local Boy makes good
With the Lakers being steamrolled by the Mavericks in the second round, Dallas’ Tyson Chandler was the only L.A. link on display during the Finals.
Since making the jump from Compton Dominguez High School to the NBA in 2001, Chandler’s career hasn’t proceeded without obstacles.
Chandler’s battled numerous injuries and has been traded several times. This season, I talked about how the Mavericks had a different look to them, particularly on defense.
Chandler’s presence at center not only gave Dallas a formidable player at the five, he helped change the team’s “soft” label and mentality.
Throughout the Finals, Chandler averaged a modest nine points, eight rebounds and a block per game. If you strictly read box scores, you would get the impression that he’s just a cog in the Mavericks wheel.
However, if you watched the games, you would know that Chandler makes a world of difference.
I remember watching Chandler in-person at some of the area high school all-star games, and the lanky Compton center was certainly talented, but I figured he’d get pushed around in the NBA and would likely be a career backup.
Boy was I wrong.
Chandler not only developed into a stout defender and rebounder, but a decent offensive player around the basket. His improved offense was on display during Games 4 and 5 when he scored 13 points in each contest.
James, Wade and their Miami teammates fell in love at times with their outside shots as a direct result of Chandler.
Closing in on the space of shooters, making outlet passes and keeping the ball alive on missed shots so that teammates have a shot at the rebound aren’t sexy aspects of the NBA.
Chandler personified this Mavericks team of savvy veterans who possessed all of the intangibles and never gave up.
TV Ratings top Last Year’s Finals
Who would have though that a Miami-Dallas NBA Finals could capture a national audience bigger than last year’s Lakers versus Celtics?
Certainly not me. According to the Nielsen ratings, this year’s Finals were 12 percent higher than last season’s. Also, Sunday’s Game 6 rated 15 percentage points higher than last season’s.
There are probably a myriad of reasons why so many eyeballs were glued to television sets.
The Mavericks were a feel good story because of Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry’s quest to win their first rings. Even Dallas’ eccentric owner Mark Cuban might have been a draw, although he was surprisingly mum these playoffs.
But let’s not kid ourselves. The No. 1 draw was Miami, and the Big Three.
There’s nothing like a villain in a good movie plot and the Heat seemingly followed the script well.
There definitely was a resentment factor directed towards the Heat by NBA fans around the country who wanted to see the South Beach Trio go down in flames.
All of the animus obviously stemmed from James’ ESPN soap opera “The Decision,” and preseason proclamations during an over the top introduction to Miami of winning “not one, not two…but eight titles.”
I have no doubts, people tuned-in to see Wade dribble the ball off of his shoe during the Game 6 fourth quarter; James repeatedly failing to make crucial plays and Chris Bosh falling to his knees in the arena hallway tunnel to the locker room in tears after the stinging defeat.
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