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The Mavericks Are Unlikely Champions, But They Deserve It

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Its still incredible, almost a week later. Incredible to think that this was the team that could win it all. That this 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks squad would be the one to, as Chuck Cooperstein put it, "[scale] the NBA mountain and [plant] their flag."

Ask anyone. It wasn't suppose to happen this way.

There were plenty of teams whose resume's screamed "contender". There was the three-peat hoping Lakers and the MVP-led Bulls. There was the Spurs, back from the dead to take the NBA's best regular season record, and there were the Thunder, a team just birthed with young talent and energy and still deadly and dangerous as can be. And, of course, the three kings of South Beach, whose talents had carried them to the second seed in the East.

Lots of worthy candidates. But the Mavericks? That team who'd been around forever? Regular season warriors, but can't get it done after Game 82? Sure, they were "worthy" in the sense that they'd been a regular season dynasty for years, winning 50+ games ten straight years. Sure, they had a superstar in Dirk that certainly had done enough to deserve a championship. But three, four, five months ago, no one would have said they were "worthy" to be the 2011 NBA Champions because they were not the best team by a long shot.

Its true that the Mavericks sure didn't seem deserving. Kobe and Gasol. Rose and Boozer. Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker. Durant and Westbrook. James and Wade.

Dirk and...who? Terry is the popular choice, but he was sure inconsistent. Chandler? Kidd? Marion?

The NBA is a star-driven league, people say. No wonder it was so surprising when a team won the NBA Championship, not a few individuals.

That's still what I find so incredible. Who was the Mavericks second-best player in these playoffs? Terry was great in the Lakers series, and closed the Heat out. Marion was simply incredible shutting down the best players in any given series, and had some critical offensive performances. Chandler was a defensive presence all series, and had several games where his effort was unmatchable. Kidd set the tone for the entire playoffs with Games 1 and 2 against the Blazers, and hit huge shots all playoffs. Hell, J.J. Barea had some spectacular games and runs and probably should be given a ton of credit for several wins.

All of those players also had inconsistency, disappearances, and rough stretches. Its impossible to call just one the "second-best", but rather it was a constantly shifting role, sometimes even occupied by a couple players when Dirk actually dared to miss some shots. Certainly a style, a way of playing much different than the usual isolation, star-power champions.

I can tell you that Dirk doesn't care, though, about the style he won his first (and hopefully not only, but that's something for the coming months) championship. He's just happy to have cleared the hump after years of disappointments, teammates failing to step up when he had a bad game, and a general lack of talent around him. Jason Kidd, whose amazing career finally is magnified with something he'd been so close to getting twice. Jason Terry, who turned around that long-lived stigma of choking in the playoffs with title-clinching performances in Games 5 and 6. Shawn Marion, whose Phoenix teams always seemed contenders, but never actually won it. Peja Stojakovic, who must have thought that his chances of a title had all been back in his Sacramento days.

It took creativity, to establish a team different from the norm that was still championship worthy. It took heart, because the people who believed in their chances to win it all were constantly dwindling. It took effort, because all those 30+ year old bodies must have felt too exhausted to go on many times during this run. It took Dirk, and Terry, and Kidd, and Marion, and Chandler, and everyone else who contributed. But in the end, it took the Larry O'Bryan away from the other twenty-nine teams gunning for it too. Now, finally, the Mavericks can sing "We Are the Champions" to their hearts content. And I don't care how offtune it is, it sounds beautiful.