I can just imagine if I was a writer in charge of the 2011 Final's "script". The producer would ask for a loveable team that everyone could root for -- not too dominant, not too arrogant, the underdogs in every series and coming out on top no matter what the odds. Give it to a city that deserves it. Have it be a team, not a bunch of individuals.
Naturally, I would pick the Mavericks. A team who nearly won in 2006. A team led by one of the league's most selfless superstars and a game-changing skillset. A team full of older veterans with plenty of historic moments, but no NBA titles.
I would start the playoff run against Portland, a young, up-and-coming team that would have most experts and analysts picking for the upset. I would have the Mavericks win the first two games, lose the next one, and then be 12 minutes away from putting the series away in Game 4. Then, with a huge lead, I would have Brandon Roy lead a comeback, giving the broken-down superstar one last moment in the sun. Every movie has a moment where the protagonist is in danger, and here are the Mavericks, running perilously close to elimination with all the momentum behind them.
But the Mavericks would take Game 5 and close the series on the road in the next game. Jason Kidd, who lost back-to-back Finals in his heyday with the New York Nets, played some of his basketball of the season in that series. The usually pass-first (and pass-second, and pass-third) point guard scored 42 points in the first two games to carry Dallas.
Next, I would have Dallas face the two-time reigning champions looking for their second three-peat -- two teams that had somehow never faced each other in the playoffs before since Kobe and Dirk had been on the roster. Against the Lakers in Game One, I'd start laying the groundwork for a key storyline: second half comebacks. This one would only be a 16-point comeback over two quarters, relatively mild for the things I have planned later. Corey Brewer, who only joined the team in March, would provide a key spark. The Mavericks would be called "tenacious" and "gritty" for their Game 1 win, but it would clearly just a team that was delaying the inevitable.
Then the team would win Game 2. And Game 3. It would be a stunning reversal of national expectations. Peja Stojakovic, joining the Mavericks halfway through the season, would bury shot after shot in this series. Almost a decade prior, his Sacramento Kings had lost to none other than the Lakers in a controversial 2002 series that lead to many questions asked about the referees. For Peja, every shot he made was payback for that series. If you needed any further proof, he showed it in Game 4, when Stojakovic went 6-of-6 from behind the arc, joining Jason Terry's 9-of-10 shooting from deep for one of the greatest playoff shooting displays by teammates in playoff history. The American Airlines Crowd would sing, "na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye," as the Mavericks closed out one of the NBA's most storied franchises.
Next would come the Oklahoma City Thunder, a rising team looking to establish their place in the NBA. The Mavericks would have already got two fantastic series from superstar Dirk Nowitzki, but this is the one where he carried his team. He scored 48 in a Game 1 win and 40 more in a 15-point comeback win in Game 4. The Thunder didn't have a player who could stop him.
Shawn Marion would take on Kevin Durant, and arguably outplay him for the series. Marion was everywhere, and Durant couldn't quite rise to the challenge. After years on the Suns playing for a great team that could never quite get to the Finals, Marion would make the most of his chance.
And finally, it would come down to a series that simply had to happen: a repeat of the 2006 Finals that Dallas had lost five years ago. The Heat and the Mavericks. This time, Dirk had a much more diverse and complete squad of teammates around him. But then again, Dwyane Wade had LeBron James.
Of course, the Mavericks would fall in Game 1 -- the first time all playoffs they had been down in a playoff series. They would look down and out in Game 2, unable to keep up with the athleticism and talent of Miami's Big 3. And then, something would happen. Remember the scene-setting, and the equally impressive comeback against the Thunder? It would happen again. Led by Dirk and Jason Terry, the Mavericks would recover a 15-point deficit with just five minutes left in the game. That day, the storyline was that Dirk had an injured left hand. Of course game-winning shot would be a left-handed layup by the normally jump-shooting Nowitzki.
Again, Miami would take Game 3. The Mavericks were down in a series for the second time in these playoffs. Before Game 4, the news broke -- Dirk was sick. He had a fever over 100 degrees. He started strong, then faded during the middle of the game. His teammates would pick him up, and after Dirk had carried the team through these playoffs, they would return the favor.
Towel over his head, coughing on the sidelines, Dirk would thank his teammates for their efforts, then hit the final layup to seal a victory in Game 4 -- as only he could. The Mavericks would win Game 5 at home, and finally take a lead in the series. Jason Terry, he of the preseason tattoo of a Larry O'Brian trophy on his bicep, would hit one of the most improbable shots of all time over LeBron James.
But it had to go six games, just like the 2006 series five years ago. And the Mavericks would have to pay back the Heat by winning in Miami, just like they won in Dallas back then. Of course Dirk would be able to buy a bucket in the first half, relying on his teammates to step up one last time. And inevitably, they did. Jason Terry hit shot after shot. J.J. Barea, inserting into the starting lineup, gave the team just enough of a spark. Brian Cardinal hit a three, and DeShawn Stevenson hit three of them. Ian Mahinmi hit a foul-line jump shot at the third quarter buzzer.
And Dirk, to his credit, hit just enough shots down the stretch of the fourth quarter to take home his first NBA Championship. The one he had long deserved. The one everyone was rooting for him to get.
And when I hand this script into my producer, he'd laugh and say, "Nobody would ever believe this could happen in real life. Come on, man, let's aim for some realism."
That's why we play sports. Because sometimes, it happens just like that.