The year is 2032.
You’ve just parked your flying car, and step on to the Dallas HoverDART (go with me, it’s the future), headed to the game. You arrive downtown, snap a photo in front of Dirk’s one-legged fade statue, and smile. No more tickets, instead you get your eyes scanned and enter the AAC.
As you head to your seat you can’t help but laugh looking up at the newly raised “Three-peat” banner hanging in the rafters. You turn to your son, or daughter, or wife, or boyfriend, or girlfriend, or a stranger next to you and try to recall. Yes, it’s hard for them to believe, but still you explain how all this happened; reminiscing on how this dynasty really started. How a sub 6 foot undrafted point guard exploded in to the hearts of MFFLs everywhere - completely altering the future of a franchise nearly two decades ago. Yogimania.
Considering how the 2016-17 season began for the Mavericks, the 6-6 start to January wasn’t all that bad. They had dug themselves a massive hole, and injuries to key players was a weight tied to their legs. By January 26th, Rick Carlisle had thrown out close to 15 different starting lineups; hardly a recipe for success.
But it was that game in January against the Oklahoma City Thunder where fate fell on the left hamstring of starting point guard (and 10 day contract recipient) Pierre Jackson. Forcing the front office’s hand, Yogi Ferrell, a well decorated college point guard who couldn’t find his footing on one of the worst teams in the league in Brooklyn, came in to a losing situation in Dallas and was dynamite from the first tip.
It didn’t have the national (or even global) craze that Jeremy Lin had in his time with the New York Knicks, to be sure. But for a fan base in Dallas that was used to undersized point guards and winning, there was truly nothing like Yogi’s first week in a Mavericks uniform.
Ferrell reached mythical status on February 3rd that winter. The Mavericks visited the Portland Trail Blazers, riding a four game winning streak and led by the rental point guard. Yogi simply could not be stopped. He hit dagger after dagger, culminating in this.
The emotion in the clip still gets me.
It’s a beautiful sports moment on so many levels. Like out of a childhood dream, Yogi was the best player on the floor that night. He was fearlessly unconscious, as his arm became a flamethrower and he shouldered the burden of Mavericks’ woes, making them disappear if only for that night. Really, you had to have watched the 49 games up to that point to feel the power of that shot. And if you didn’t, just clock the energy coming out of guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews and Seth Curry.
A lasting impact?
It was that game (32 points, 9-of-11 from three) that locked Yogi in with Dallas for the next season and a half. And many assumed for much longer. Zoomed in, his introduction to the Mavericks was a fun respite in the darkness of a terrible season. But I believe in a larger scope, years from now, we’ll realize that Yogi’s impact had far more reach than just his 118 games in a Mavericks uniform.
The roster leaders, coaching staff, and front office personnel in Dallas have been spoiled over the last 20 years. Primarily because the heart for those two decades is a top three power forward of all time. So for fans, both old and new, grappling with the reality of the team over the last couple seasons hasn’t been easy. Leadership in the Mavericks office want to send out Dirk Nowitzki as close to on top as possible. That’s why the roster was built the way it was back in 2016. Cap flexibility yes, but veteran savvy that could try and meet Dirk on his level too.
For long stretches of Mavericks history, they simply have not trusted young, raw talent. In the prime of Dirk’s career it wasn’t a necessity, and if anything it had the potential to slow them down. There were outliers of course, but when an organization is stringing together 50-win seasons like the Mavericks were, they didn’t have time to wait for the development of young players.
What Yogi Ferrell showed that night (or those first several weeks) was that the time for investing in young projects was now. And if Dallas wanted any future success to extend past Dirk’s tenure, they would need to make that investment soon. As Yogi took over, the Mavs found landing places for Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut — and brought in a risky young project with loads of potential in Nerlens Noel. They embraced the youth and inexperience of the team. It was that shift in February 2017 that brought in the future anchors of the franchise in Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic.
The Mavericks have long been adept in the trade market. Most of the historically best transactions have been in trading assets for better assets. Free agency has been rather hit or miss. It could be argued years from now, if the Mavericks find success in this new era of the franchise, that Yogi Ferrell is one of the most important free agent signings of the last several decades.
His 10 points and three assists per game in Dallas is replaceable, of course. But the shift that took place after his arrival might be priceless. Yogi, we hardly knew ye. But thanks for the memories. Signed from the future, MFFLs everywhere.