Editor's Note: Ladies and Gents, I present to you submission number three for our next potential blogger. Enjoy!
The lockout has forced us into a realm which most of us have not seen before. Instead of talking about the wonderful off-season the Mavs are experiencing, we’re forced to look over numbers and contracts, proposals and revenues. Even when we try to potentially break down Dallas’ quest for resigning and adding free agents, we’re forced to add in a gigantic and bold "what if?" since we do not know what kind of cap the Mavericks will be working with come free agency.
So where do we turn? With the draft behind us and a lookout in front of us for the foreseeable future, I’ve been stewing over something in my mind for some time now.
Dirk Nowitzki’s last playoff run wasn’t comparable to Larry Bird. It was comparable to Michael Jordan.
Now that you’ve put your eyeballs back in your head or have picked up the pieces of your brain that exploded onto your freshly cooked hot pocket, allow me to explain.
Larry Bird is always the first NBA legend Dirk is stood up next to for obvious reasons. Both are tall forwards who first made their mark on the game with their incredible shooting. Unfortunately, both being white seems to be a main reason the two are forever intertwined. Never mind that Bird was a better passer and Dirk was a more well-rounded scorer. Or that Bird played along side multiple hall-of-famers in their primes and Dirk only wrangled in a HOF-er before his best years (Nash) and one when he was 38-years-old (Kidd).
But look past the cliché similarities and you’ll find that Dirk Nowitzki’s championship run mirrors the greatest of all time. Even before you look at the numbers, just watching Nowtizki from April-June harked back memories to No. 23. The ability to take over games in the final moments. Being the epicenter of an entire team’s offense. Ability to hit impossible shots from any spot on the court. The tongue. The game-winning baskets.
Also, the complete mastery of the midrange game. Fire up the YouTube machine for Michael Jordan’s biggest clutch shots – you’ll find yourself watching a variety midrange jumpers: fading, stepping back, off the crossover, pull up, you name it. You’ll also see some brutal drives to the hole, finishing shots in the lane against impossible circumstances. When it was winning time, there was none better than Jordan. Be it from the free throw line or outside the paint, Jordan exploited any defender that tried to make him mortal.
I saw the exact same thing from Dirk Nowitzki in 2011. Of course there are some slight differences -- Jordan loved to shoot his jumper going to his right. Dirk is famous for pulling up to his left -- but the perfect, fluid motion is there in both shooters' forms. If I could only marry one jumpshot and had to choose between Dirk and Jordan, I'd move to Utah. I have to have them both. And while Dirk’s 2011 playoff numbers still seemed dwarfed by MJ overall (for instance, when comparing the two "sick" games, Dirk still struggled from the field while MJ lit it up to the tune of 38 points) the deeper you go, the closer the two are connected.
In the last 20 years, three players hold the top five scoring averages in the fourth quarter during an NBA Finals. Those three players are Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan…and Dirk Nowtizki. Dirk’s average of 10.3 points per fourth quarter in the 2011 Finals is fourth best in the past 20 seasons. Right below MJ’s 10.7 in 1997 and tied right with His Airness’ 10.3 mark in 1993.
Dirk’s 2011 playoffs have become the stuff of legend, much like MJ’s famous moments. MJ has "The Shot" and the "The Shrug." Dirk has "The Layup," "Layup 2: Electric Boogalo," and "The Three." Both players with legendary moments in legendary performances.
In a recent Bill Simmons post, Simmons described MJ as someone who made the game predictable. That Jordan was so good; we knew the shot was going in before the possession even started. He sums it up quite well with this statement.
"Usually heroes come through only on command in movies; Jordan did it in real life. We loved him for it."
Tell me that’s NOT how you felt about Dirk Nowitzki during the Finals or his playoff run. I’ll be waiting at the corner of I Told You So Ave. and That’s What I Thought Blvd. When Dirk rose up for his go-ahead three pointer in Game 2, I saw the ball cascading through the net before it left his fingertips. When Dirk pump faked and then bounced his upper body off Chris Bosh to free up space for his dagger in the final moments of Game 6, I knew that extraordinary shot would have a rather ordinary result -- at least, for Dirk Nowitzki.
In no way was Dirk Nowitzki’s playoff run just as good as or better than any of Jordan’s. Let's not forget Jordan's exemplary perimeter defense (but don't underrate Dirk's individual and team defense either, he isn't as bad as you might think). Jordan comparisons should always bare an asterisk, because really, there will never be anyone better than him. But for two months, Dirk Nowitzki tried. And he looked awfully damn close.
(Writer’s note: OK, so I just compared Dirk to MJ, what are YOUR thoughts? Leave comments down below on which NBA legend Dirk resembled in the 2011 playoffs. Agree you saw some flashes of MJ? Think I’m a moron for mentioning the GOAT? Still think it is Dirk and Bird? Bob McAdoo? Sound off!)