Ice Cube’s BIG3 basketball league swung through Dallas last week. The three-on-three tournament was in town for the first round of playoffs. Naturally, the focus was on the court where former NBA players show that they still have game. And while BIG3 was just making a Brian Custer, who calls the games, has ties both to the city and to the Dallas Mavericks. Custer, he was an on-air personality with KTVT Channel 11, Dallas’ CBS affiliate. Even though he’s covering the BIG3 now, he looks back fondly on his time covering the Mavs and looks forward to what Dallas may accomplish next season.
Prior to the Mavericks’ deal with Fox Sports Southwest, their games aired locally in Dallas on channels 11 and 21. From 1997 to 2005, Custer hosted the Mavs’ pregame and postgame shows with Derek Harper, who is now the color commentator for the televised broadcasts. Out of all the games that Custer was part of, one of his most memorable moments came on May 31, 2001 when the Mavericks upset the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs.
“The first time they had been in the playoff in well over—I think it was like 15 years, a decade.” Custer recalls. “When we were in Utah and it was Dirk—he was a young kid at that time—Nash, Finley and they ended up beating Karl Malone and John Stockton in the first round of the playoffs there. They beat them in five games, three games to two, and won in Salt Lake City. And I just remember they won and we ended up running on the court and interviewing Mark Cuban. There were all these people that stormed the court and we were trying to do this interview with all kinds of people jumping around. That was a crazy scene. That was kind of the year that Don Nelson and those guys turned the franchise around.
“That was probably one of the things I was most proud of and I always look back on fondly because once they won a championship it was like, ‘Man, I remember when they first got back to the playoffs. I was a part of that.’ So yeah, that’s the first thing that comes to mind.”
Custer, though, doesn’t see the playoffs as only a distant memory. In fact, after seeing the moves the Mavericks made this summer and last, he once again has hopes that the team will return to the postseason.
“You know, listen,” Custer says. “This is probably the most excited I’ve been about the Dallas Mavericks in a long time because I believe they should be knocking on the playoffs this year. I think if you have DeAndre Jordan—you have a rim-protector—you’ve got Luka who can come in. Dennis Smith Jr. is an absolute stud. That kid has got hops. Harrison Barnes is a solid player. Listen, may not be a max player even though he’s getting max money—a solid player. And you could bring Dirk off the bench if you wanted. I know that sounds ridiculous, but Dirk doesn’t have to do too much. He only needs to give you maybe like 15, 14 [minutes]. Just be consistent with that.
“This is a team I think should be right there knocking on the door. I don’t think Portland will be as good. I think Portland was like—people forget—the number three seed. If Luka can come in and be Tony Kukoc and not Darko Milicic, you got something. I really believe they could knock on the door for the eighth seed.”
That’s an optimistic outlook for the Mavericks — the Vegas odds are that the team will win 34.5 games next season. But if Custer’s prediction comes true, though, it may be the moment that another era of sustained playoff basketball is ushered in for the Mavericks like the one Custer witnessed firsthand in 2001.