It’s been nearly 20 years since I’ve had this feeling—this unfiltered excitement. Back then, I didn’t know how rare it would be during my sports fandom. Now it’s returned, as I look at this Dallas Mavericks’ team and envision its future.
In the 1999-00 season, the Mavericks found something after a decade of irrelevance. It was the dawn of the best era in Dallas basketball history. We’re still talking about it. Fifteen playoff appearances in 16 seasons, two trips to the NBA Finals, one championship, and a slew of timeless memories. All of it seems so long ago after a few years wandering the wasteland that is the bottom of the standings. Now, though, the team is on the rise again.
When I jokingly started my weird twitter campaign just a week into the 2017-18 season, I didn’t actually think the Mavericks would actually end up with Luka Doncic. Dallas got off to such a horrid start last year, there wasn’t much to cheer about. Sure, we rooted for Dennis Smith Jr. but the season was lost as soon as it began. Therefore, we started our draft analysis super early. Doncic seemed like a good fit, displaying a number of qualities teams desire in today’s league. So, it became fun to debate about the team’s chances of getting him as they struggled.
Fast forward to now, as the Dallas Mavericks are somehow in the thick of the playoff chase. Keep in mind, they are just one season removed from finishing with the third worst record in the NBA. Their surprising upswing resulted in a surge of coverage, reaching far beyond the usual local outlets.
Sometime last week, the wave crested. I actually complained about Mavericks coverage from a national media perspective, then all of a sudden a deluge of Dallas content appeared throughout the week. Articles, podcasts, even TV segments. The Mavericks are everywhere. People are noticing Dallas and for the first time since, well, maybe ever.
Now, the Mavs are a big part of the daily basketball conversation—part of the culture. There’s so much more basketball content today compared to when Dallas won the NBA Championship. It’s affirming that after years of basketball, which ranged from mediocre to terrible, the Mavs are being received so well thanks to their turnaround on the court.
Where we are, right now, is one of the best parts about being a fan during the life cycle of a team. The Mavericks are fun and good enough to be entertaining. They also aren’t weighed down by expectations yet. And, thankfully, neither are we as fans. It’s such a great feeling to enjoy what’s happening with this team—our team—and not worry about what is to come.
The possibilities feel endless and that’s wonderful. I didn’t know how much I needed to feel this way again. I’m generally a negative sports fan and I like to complain about things, it’s just how I’m wired. While I’ll still nitpick about specifics from game to game, when I pull back just a little bit, look at the bigger picture, and see that the Mavericks have the framework for their next great team, all of a sudden I can’t wait for the next tip off to arrive.
Our emotions will change, of course. Winning brings attention and with attention comes expectations. But for now, it’s important to enjoy this part of the ride. This is the sweet spot and I plan to enjoy these feelings of anticipation, potential, and excitement for as long as I can.