The story of how I became a Mavericks (and really, NBA) fan is something I've written before. In fact, it was one of the first things I ever wrote as a blogger, but I wrote it in the context of the 2013 Finals a little over a year ago.
In reality, it's a little more complicated than I let on. I mean, aren't love stories usually?
I have a bad habit of falling in love with the wrong teams at the wrong time. I grew up a Cowboys fan, and the Super Bowls of the 1990s happened when I was 11, 12 and 14. I remember them, but you know, I don't remember them well. When I picked up baseball (to impress a guy), I started following the Rangers closely the season AFTER they went to two straight World Series, thinking, "this seems like a good team to follow." (Sigh.)
Depending on your perspective, I started following the Mavericks either right on time or at the worst possible time. Fresh off an inspiring San Diego State University run in the NCAA tournament that year (/waves to Kawhi Leonard), I had been looking for a sport to learn and follow to keep me busy once football faded away anyway. The Tournament had been a lot of fun, but San Diego doesn't have a NBA team. If they did, this story might be different.
I vaguely remember turning the Mavericks on for the first time in the middle of the Blazers series -- maybe it was game 3, maybe 4, I don't really remember.
I don't think I had ever watched an entire NBA game in my life. But I fell in love and I fell hard. As I've read all the stories this week, I see why. I started throwing playoffs watch parties just to cheer on Dirk. I did not know who any of the other players were. I had no idea if the Mavericks had ever been to the playoffs before, whether they were favored, whether the team they were playing in any given round was supposed to be "better." All I knew was that every game I watched seemed so magical. They were losing, until they weren't. They won in seemingly improbable ways, with thrilling comebacks and overcoming a lot of disbelief.
And then they won it all. And it was awesome.
I'm sure I celebrated, but for the most part, these were players I had just met. I knew there was a lockout coming, so kind of like a great first date who might never call you back, I shrugged and said, "that was really fun, but I wonder when I'll get a chance to see them again." And I put my love aside.
The lockout shortened next season started on Christmas Day. I woke up to a text from the guy I was dating at the time: "Merry Christmas, watch some basketball!" (Yeah, same guy.) In a sense, the Mavericks I fell in love with were those Mavericks -- the improbable champions returning from the lockout a different, Tyson Chandler-less team, still trying to sneak into the playoffs to make that improbable run again. I watched the games on my phone in my room while lesson-planning for the law school class I was teaching. I slowly waded into the crazy ocean of opinions we lovingly call "basketball Twitter."
Maybe that makes me less frustrated at the past couple seasons when the Mavs haven't quite lived up to the lofty expectations placed upon them by virtue of 2011. I mean, I didn't even realize Vince Carter wasn't on that Championship team until about halfway through the 2011-12 season. Who would have thought that three years and a move to Dallas later, I'd be sitting in the press box at American Airlines Center to jump and scream and hug everyone when Vince hit that three against the Spurs to win the first playoff game I'd ever attended?
Another improbable, magical moment. That one, three years later, I fully appreciated. But if that Championship had never happened, I may not have cared to start watching at all. I really do fall in love at the worst times, don't I?
And when I fall, man, do I fall hard.