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Why I’m a fan of the Dallas Mavericks: The trade that won my affection all the way from Toronto

Devean George tried, but couldn’t stop me

Dallas Mavericks v New York Knicks Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images

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I should start off with an admission: I haven’t always been a Dallas Mavericks fan. In fact, I often cheered against them in the early years of my NBA fandom. In 2006, I remember the excitement with which I watched Alonzo Mourning block shot after shot in Game 6. A year later, I won my high school basketball pool after being the only one to correctly pick the Golden State Warriors in the historic 1-8 upset.

Less than a year later in February of 2008, Dallas traded for Jason Kidd (Devean George be damned), and unbeknownst to Donnie Nelson, Mark Cuban, or anyone else even remotely tied to the organization, the Mavericks also acquired my unwavering loyalty all the way from Toronto, Ontario.

The truth is that I’ve always been sentimental, and a sucker for narratives. As someone who played competitive basketball until my genes decided that I would be no taller than 5”8, I gravitated towards the underdog stories. The unification of the past-his-prime, former MVP candidate, point guard in Kidd with Dirk Nowitzki, the unorthodox 7 foot All-Star with a misunderstood but revolutionary perimeter-oriented game on a team that had been on the cusp but failed to win it all was perfect for me.

I think what initially kept me hooked on Dallas was that by being a 50 win team, but still a tier short of true contender status, the Mavs were just enough of a long shot to make deep playoff runs to be true underdogs, but close enough that I would come off as a homer, but not a lunatic in arguing for their success.

In 2008, I argued that Kidd’s experience could push the team past the Hornets led by a young Chris Paul. In 2009, the offseason pick-up of Drew Gooden gave Dirk a capable scorer at the center position, and Ryan Hollins was blocking shots and throwing down alley-oops just consistently enough to provide hope. 2010 was arguably the most fun (pre-championship) iteration, with Tim Thomas joining the fray, and the midseason trade for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson. All of these years ended in disappointment, but as expected. Between David West slapping Dirk in the face, the refs somehow forgetting to call an intentional foul on Antoine Wright, to losing to a better team in the Spurs, Dallas came up short, time after time.

But I was okay with that. Despite being a Canadian with no tangible ties to the city of Dallas, or the state of Texas, I loved this team. I was invested in this team such that year in and year out, I would lose my playoff pools by somehow talking myself into Dallas advancing a round or two further than they would while the rest of my bracket remained intact.

I would be so vocal in my fandom that my friends in dormitory would actively cheer against Dallas, not because they liked the Spurs, or Nuggets, but simply to annoy me.

Then 2011 happened. That team is my favourite team of all time. While the narrative of the Kidd-Dallas pairing first got me hooked, a roster stocked with former all-stars, a group of players who just a few years back were at the top of their games coming together just as the Miami Super Team was formed? It could not have been scripted any better.

For the first time in my experience cheering for the Mavs, I didn’t have to commit to mental gymnastics to convince myself that Dallas had a chance at winning. Each player on that team had a unique career and collectively, they culminated in the franchise winning it’s first championship.

Interestingly enough, now that Dallas had scaled that proverbial mountain and had been crowned champions, I had to address the root of my fandom: how could I justify cheering for a team because of their underdog status when they had just won the title as the best basketball team in the league? What I quickly discovered was that while that narrative is what may have brought me to the Dallas Mavericks, unbeknownst to me, my commitment was maintained by my admiration for one Dirk Nowitzki.

Watching Dirk struggle to shake the label of soft despite always elevating his game in the playoffs, fighting through the troubles of his personal life in 2009, winning a championship only to take a pay cut in his prime to commit to the franchise’s vision moving forward, and witnessing his unwavering commitment even as the front office failed to put a truly competitive team around him; I had to continue cheering for Dirk and by extension, his team.

To be honest, at this point, I couldn’t tell you if I am a fan of Dirk Nowitzki or the Dallas Mavericks because to me they are one in the same. I joined the MFFL fray by following my favourite point guard to the team, fell in love with the franchise, and now find myself loyal to the 38 year old “tall baller from the G.” My journey to becoming, and remaining a Mavs fan has been unorthodox, but its been a blast from where I’m sitting.

Now? I see and hope Harrison Barnes takes another step forward, that Dallas re-signs Nerlens Noel, drafts well, and who knows? Maybe Dallas can upset their way into the second round of the playoffs. But, what do I know? I’m just a fan.

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