When you think of the 2011 NBA Finals, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
For most people, it’s probably Dirk’s drive past Chris Bosh, or Jason Terry’s ridiculous three over LeBron James. I remember those things too, of course, but really, what I remember is just how insanely important DeShawn Stevenson was over that six game stretch.
Five years after those finals and three years after last suiting up in the NBA, DeShawn Stevenson has officially retired.
Fans may recall that Stevenson was acquired as part of the 2010 blockbuster trade, headlined by Josh Howard, Caron Butler, and Brendan Haywood. Stevenson was essentially a throw in, acquired largely to make the salaries work across the trade.
By 2010, Stevenson was largely a NBA afterthought. A late first round selection in the 2000 draft, Stevenson became known for the pre-draft comparison to Michael Jordan, his playoff feuding with LeBron James, and the greatest tattoo in recent sports memory:
do we talk enough about how Abraham Lincoln has an nba championship ring? pic.twitter.com/rEENXK6nEU— Tim Cato (@tim_cato) December 18, 2016
In his one and a half seasons with the Mavericks, he didn’t play much, averaging around 15 minutes per game. But his insertion into the starting lineup just before the playoffs in 2011 is now seen as a key reason for the playoff run.
Bob Strum’s reflection on the 2011 season, “This Year Will Be Different”, details the discussions between Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd, which they eventually took to coach Rick Carlisle, where all three agreed that starting Stevenson would give the team a toughness boost to start contests.
In the 2011 Finals, Stevenson made his lasting mark, shooting an absurd 57 percent from beyond the arc, including a pair of 3 of 5 performances in the clutch game two comeback and the game six closeout. These shooting performances came along with his strong defense against Dwyane Wade, who was the only Miami player to perform well throughout the series.
After the Finals, Stevenson partied for days, wore some incredible clothing, and was eventually arrested for public intoxication. The Mavericks opted to let Stevenson sign elsewhere because Mark Cuban did not believe lightning could be caught in a bottle twice.
But I’ll never forget DeShawn Stevenson. He was the right player, in the right place, at the right time. And he helped the Dallas Mavericks win their first and only championship.