It was an odd night to say the least.
I was sitting in my new, empty living room on late April night. I was in eighth grade and we had just moved from our one-story house a block away to a brand new two story place. My parents decided to head to bed early after a long day of moving. The house was practically empty save for our beds and boxes all around.
I pleaded with my Dad to hook up our TV before he went to bed. It was Game 3 of the 2003 playoff series between the Sacramento Kings and the Dallas Mavericks. I sat on the floor in my living room, watching the game at its late (for me at the time) tip-off.
And what a wonderful game. I truly became a Maverick fan during the 2003 season. And this game was my Odyssey, my epic. I jumped after every basket, trying not to wake the family in the bedroom. I pranced around my house like a pony after every Nick Van Exel bucket or Dirk jumper. I slumped depressed when Doug Christie would nail a three or Vlade Divac would hit some running hook shot, or fling a behind the back pass to Peja Stojakovic for a three pointer. I was so emotionally drained once the buzzer sounded, I almost fell asleep instantly.
What a game. Looking back, it was truly ridiculous. Nick Van Exel being an important contributor. Steve Nash showing off why his meteoric rise to MVP-mainstay in Phoenix wasn't really that shocking. Dirk Nowitzki becoming an all-around machine. Michael Finely! A fully-functional and alive Mike Bibby! Bobby Jackson in what had to be Jason Terry's inspiration! Walt Williams! WALT THE WIZARD WILLIAMS.
I single out this game specifically but really, every Dallas/Sacramento game felt like this in the early 2000s. Arco Arena and the American Airlines Center were the two best home crowds at the time, the buildings would almost shake at the climax of a close game. It also didn't hurt that the average score between the two teams would be somewhere around 135-130.
This was in a time where Mavericks/Kings wasn't just an NBA Christmas Day regular, but sometimes the main, prime-time event. It was a brilliant mix of great personalities (both likeable and unlikeable), teamwork and basketball art. It was the NBA's two thoroughbreds, sprinting around the track, displaying their style which wasn't necessarily over substance. Sure, neither of these teams won a championship, but they were constant winners. Both got close and while they weren't the defensive-mind Finals teams like San Antonio, Detroit, New Jersey or Indiana, that shouldn't mean they should be discounted in the NBA's history for playing a different style. Dallas and Sacramento put scares into the NBA's elite by running the ball every chance they could, by building a roster with shooters and scorers instead of stoppers. It was fun. It was, at times, brilliant. In my eyes, it was the funnest NBA rivalry from 2001-2005.
Which is why the news of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announcing that there's a framework for a deal to build a new arena – and keep the Kings in SacTown – is wonderful. The Mavericks and Kings haven't had much of a rivalry for the last five to six years, with the Kings rebuilding and the Mavericks chugging along with their veterans, but there's still something about a Mavs/Kings game that gets to the core of me.
Call me a hopeless basketball romantic. But as a Dallas fan and more importantly, a basketball fan, I couldn't be more thrilled over today's news. Keep steady, Sacramento. There you stay.