The 2018-2019 Dallas Mavericks season is well underway and the Mavs are off to a bit of a rocky start — especially infuriating when one considers how close they’ve been in several of their recent losses.
It’s Homecoming season, and Mavs fans (and the team) are patiently waiting on the triumphant return of the Dallas-Forth Worth metroplex’s reigning Homecoming King — one Dirk Nowitzki. But the most recent update regarding Dirk’s return timetable is not encouraging, to say the very least.
Dirk on when he’ll be ready for his season debut: “We’re still looking at weeks at this point.” https://t.co/R8T9zhcyYg— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) October 31, 2018
So, as we wait for the return of the Man Who Loves Blue Carpets, I thought I’d take us on a quick look back to a time when Dirk introduced the world to the real meaning of “Home”.
Set the scene, Mike:
It’s the 2011-2012 season. The Mavs were reigning World Champions. I was transitioning careers, and I was nervous/excited — but we’re not talking about me, so back to the Mavs.
After winning the 2010-2011 NBA Championship, the 2011-2012 season started with a month-long lockout and the Mavs finally kicked off the season without J.J. Barea, Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Peja Stojaković, and Corey Brewer. Despite missing so many clogs in the championship machine, the Mavs, sporting a respectable 11-7 record, headed to a home showdown on January 25, 2012 vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Dirk would miss this game (his third in a row) due to a nagging right knee injury, but this was going to be a special night. If we’re talking about Homecoming activities, this game most assuredly had that vibe.
IT WAS RING NIGHT!
I was in the stands for this game — along with a sellout crowd at American Airlines Center — and several of us were pretty sports-emotional, especially when you consider that this ring ceremony was taking place a mere 91-days after the Greatest Baseball Letdown Of All Time (otherwise known to DFW sports fans as “that wretched Game 6 of the World Series”). So yeah, these fans NEEDED this night.
Dirk slid his championship ring on, accepted the microphone from Mark Cuban, and flashed that ring to the roaring crowd. The Mavs had hoisted their championship banner a month before, but Mark Cuban had waited to do this ring ceremony because of the lockout. Watching Dirk hold his ring up high on his right ring finger was well worth the lockout wait, if you ask me.
The game got underway with Dirk on the sideline in a sophisticated three-piece suit. The second quarter rolled around and the good folks at Fox Sports Southwest thought it’d be a good idea for the fans at home to hear from the ring-totting, forever Homecoming King of the metroplex. Someone handed Dirk a wireless microphone and a headset for a quick interview, Dirk-style.
With about 9:10 left before the half, the Mavs held a 35-31 lead on Minnesota as Dirk was talking about the impact Peja Stojaković had on the championship season, when the Timberwolves turned the ball over deep in the Mavs’ paint. Jason Terry and Brandan Wright made a quick charge the other way and found themselves with a two-on-one fast break advantage over a Timberwolves defender.
Jason Terry has always been known for his athleticism — I once watched him hop over a barricade and onto a stage in two quick, fluid moves at a Ludacris concert. But on this two-on-one fast break, he lost his footing momentarily, but he never lost his focus. Terry spied a streaking Brandan Wright and managed to throw up an alley from way beyond the three-point line, which Wright promptly brought down with some vicious viciousness.
And then it happened.
“SHUT IT DOWN, LET’S GO HOOOOME!”
That call by Dirk was heard around the world, and the video (please note the dancing Vince Carter!!) was shared wide and far. A wild Dirk yelling into that microphone is simply quintessential Dirk. DFW sports fans felt that call in their bones even though the Mavs ended up losing this game to the Timberwolves, 105-90. We were still buzzing from the ring ceremony as we filed out of the AAC that night.
The 2011-2012 Mavericks would go on to finish that lockout season 36-30, 3rd in the Southwest Division. The Mavs made it into the NBA Playoffs but we’re not here to discuss that right now, I refuse to discuss the fact that the Mavs were swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round — nope, we’re certainly not talking about that right now.
Now, almost 6 years later, a young season is underway and again, Dirk is out with an injury. We don’t know how effective Dirk will be when he (finally) returns to the lineup this season — the man is in his 21st NBA season.
But we do know one thing. The same man who uttered that iconic “shut it down, let’s go home!” call is the same man who’ll lace ‘em up for Dallas soon, albeit a bit slower. After all, it’s Homecoming season.