Once more unto the breach: Mavericks and Spurs meet in the playoffs so we can go crazy again

Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

The Mavericks and Spurs have a rivalry that shaped how I watch basketball right now. It turns us into crazy, deranged lunatics and also makes us happier then we can ever imagine.

"GET OUTSIDE AND STAY OUT THERE!"

That's what I yelled to one of my friends about eight years ago. We were huddled in his TV room, watching Game 7 of the playoff series between the Mavericks and the Spurs in 2006.

My friend, who isn't a particularly big sports fan, would pop into the room and each time, something bad to the Mavs would happen. A Spurs three-pointer, a Mavs turnover. Just something bad.

The game turned us into crazy savages. We didn't just want out of the room. Nope. We ordered him to go outside. And he did. He went into the backyard. The Dirk and-one happened. Overtime happened. The Mavericks won.

It seems silly to say I was exhausted after watching a sporting event, but after that one, I felt like I ran 10 miles.

To me, that's what Mavs-Spurs is. It's a rivalry for all the right reasons -- great basketball teams, easy to hate players on each side, great coaching and two cities from the same state, yet both distinct in their own way. It also turns you into a madman.

***

I remember the first Mavs-Spurs series I watched was in 2003. In 2001, I wasn't even aware of what basketball was (not because I was too young, but because my elementary school days I was completely disinterested in sports).

It also helped that at the time, my dad had Mavericks season tickets. So I would go to every home game in this series and boy, was it excruciating. It was the first time the Mavericks actually felt like contenders in some way, shedding off the awful decade of the 90s.

But still, Dallas had little-brother syndrome in that series. At least, that's how it felt watching. Everything the Mavs did, the Spurs just did better or had a counter. Well, other than Dirk. Dirk was pretty good.

It sucked to watch Dirk hurt his knee, which sucked all the fun out of the series in a way. Dallas' road win in Game 5 without Dirk was probably its most improbable win ever.

Then I learned to hate Steve Kerr. When Kerr rained in four three-pointers in the fourth quarter, with Dallas potentially able to send the series to a Game 7 AND potentially get Dirk back, ruined me. Remember, this was pretty much my first go of it as a sports fan. I hadn't experienced heartbreak before.

I mean, can you even watch this without wanting to obliterate a skyscraper?

Steve Kerr crushed me. That was when it was decided -- I hated the Spurs. I hated Tim Duncan's appalling face every time he was called for a foul. I hated Manu Ginobili flops. I hated Malik Rose just for being Malik Rose.

The rivalry would just grow as I did in my basketball watching. After that 2003 series, it felt like every Mavs-Spurs tilt meant much more than just a regular season game. Casual Mavs fans were locked in, and us hardcore fans were frothing at the mouth.

To be honest, really, Mavs-Spurs is probably Dallas' greatest sports rivalry. Cowboys-Redskins has sort of died off with both franchises being run into the ground with awful ownership, the Stars need to bounce back a little here and the Rangers have the Angels, but those two haven't met in the playoffs yet.

By the time the Mavs and Spurs tangled again in the playoffs, both teams were already well-established in hating each other. It's surprising to look back to 2009 and see how easily the Mavs brushed off the Spurs that it prompted headlines like this from extremely smart basketball people. We all thought it after it was over -- the Spurs are done and the Mavs killed them.

Then, just a damn year later, the Spurs almost destroyed Mavericks basketball. For me, 2010 is the darkest year of Mavs fandom. Dallas had a pretty good team! 55 wins! They were second in the West and just needed to dispatch that boring old Spurs team that they did so easily last year.

Game 1 was a giant success but after that, the Mavericks melted down. Jason Terry had one of his worst playoff series ever. Josh Howard was MIA -- he was literally MIA because he was traded that season and Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood couldn't change much. Rodrigue Beaubois was woefully misused by Rick Carlisle and holy shit how old are we that I can type "woefully misused" and "Rodrigue Beaubois" in the same sentence.

It was a disastrous playoff loss for multiple reasons. It was another first-round exit. Jason Terry looked washed up. Josh Howard was gone. And to top it off, Dirk was a free agent. There were rumblings in Dallas that summer if it was time to end it all -- set Dirk free so he can win a title and then start from scratch.

Funny enough that a year after that awful year, the Mavericks would win a title. Sports, am I right?

***

I felt sick to my stomach, that night in 2006 during Game 7. The Mavs played a beautiful first half. They dominated. The second half? Not so much.

When Ginobili splashed in that late three-pointer, I wanted to throw up. I wanted to stop watching basketball and take up basket-weaving. I wanted to do ANYTHING ELSE other than watching some stupid guys throw balls through hoops.

When Dirk got the ball on the right elbow against Bruce Bowen, I was almost disinterested by that point. Then Dirk made his move. "Ah, a quick two here would be nice." Except it wasn't a quick two. It was a quick three. The entire room I was in sort of exploded with joy and ultimate dread -- there was still plenty of time for the Spurs to break our hearts again.

It was a miracle that Tim Duncan came up short on a layup attempt there in the final seconds. In overtime, Jerry Stackhouse took over. When the final buzzer sounded me and another few buddies sprinted out of the house and took a lap around the neighborhood.

When we got back into the house, our friend we summoned from inside was back in the house. We apologized for being crazy and telling him to go outside.

"It's okay," he replied... "I was watching through the window," he said with a grin.

We all laughed. Mavs-Spurs had turned us into crazy men.

Let's do it again, shall we? Let's go crazy together, one more time.

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