Recently, NBA TV had a Dallas Mavericks team day featuring the greatest moments in franchise history. This intrigued me because I hadn’t seen many of those games.
As a kid I never liked basketball. My parents weren’t big sports fans so I never really got the itch til I got to college. During the one season I played, my teammates never passed me the ball because I was terrible. The one pass I got during a game hit me in the face and I quit the sport and thought I hated it.
I came around in 2006 for the Finals and in earnest for 2011, but I missed out on a great deal of Mavericks history. Outside of the 2011 playoff games I hadn’t seen a single one of those NBA TV greatest moments games. So I sat down and watched.
1986 Western Conference Semi Finals Game 3 vs. the Lakers
When this game was played, my dad was 3 years away from moving to Dallas and meeting my mom, 4.5 years from marrying her, and 8 years away from having me. All this is to say I was very far from alive when this game happened.
Off the jump what stood out was how little I knew about basketball in the 1980s, specifically on the Mavs. The reason I recognized Detlef Schrempf was from his cameo in Parks and Rec. Heck, the first time I saw Kareem was in the movie Airplane.
Every other player I recognized was either Derek Harper or on the NBA 2K all-time Mavericks team (Rolando Blackman, Mark Aguirre, and Sam Perkins).
From what I’d heard about 80s basketball I expected this game to be a slug fest filled with only post ups, slow offense and basically what Memphis has done the last decade or so. But this was fast-paced transition basketball, faster than many teams play today.
Seeing Magic Johnson back down point guards in the post was just hilarious. 38-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made the Mavericks look silly. Nothing Kareem did looked that physically impressive but every shot seemed to just perfectly fall in.
Players from that game had such thin legs back then. Magic Johnson looked like the only one on the court who could survive in the modern game, or maybe Byron Scott. Even Kareem looked thinner than Mo Bamba, yet he still played 37 minutes at age 38.
Though the three point line was introduced in the 1979-80 season, both teams appeared unaware, even frightened, of the three. Nearly every jumper looked like it was being shot with the confidence and shooting stroke of Joakim Noah.
Dallas out shot LA from deep: a whopping 2-3 against the Lakers 1-5. Derek Harper looked like he had a foot on the line when he shot that dagger three in the fourth quarter, but if the ref said it’s a three then it’s a three.
Spacing in this game was as bad as a soccer game between a clump of 5-year-olds. There were regularly three or four teammates in the paint at the same time. The fact that anyone could get off a shot was surprising.
Lastly, it was extremely disrespectful of Sam Perkins to wear Dirk Nowitzki’s number 41 jersey 13 seasons before Dirk was a Maverick.
2006 Western Conference Semi Finals Game 7 vs. the Spurs
At the tip off of this game I was 12 years old. I vaguely remember listening to the radio broadcasts of playoff rounds after this series. The biggest thing I remember from that 2006 run was this dumb YouTube video called the Avery Bunch that my brother and I watched so many times. Looking back I’m ashamed of how easily entertained 12-year-old me was.
Watching Dirk in his prime was a thing of beauty. Multiple times, Kevin Harlan and co-commentator Steve Kerr marveled at how the Spurs were unable to deal with Dirk’s speed. They weren’t talking about his skill; instead they were wowed by how Tim Duncan was unable to guard Dirk.
When Mavericks fans talk about Erick Dampier these days all they say is how he got overpaid. It makes those who didn’t watch him think he sucked. Dampier played extremely well on Tim Duncan that game.
Prime Tim Duncan reminded me of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Maybe it’s because I watched them play back-to-back but I’m sure others have made the comparison before me. Nothing Duncan did looked that impressive yet before you know it he dropped 40 points on your team.
Manu Ginobili, retire in peace, looked weird with hair, but also looked similar to the Luka Doncic highlights I’ve been watching the last four months, only two inches shorter.
That Spurs team looked so different to the most recent Spurs identity. I thought the Spurs had been a huge ball movement team since Gregg Popovich became their coach. Those 2006 Mavs looked different from the 2011 Mavs, except for Jason Terry.
Jet Terry and Josh Howard looked like unstoppable offensive forces in the first half, as did the rest of the Mavericks outside of Dirk. Nowitzki’s fourth quarter barrage along with his OT offense is a reminder of how he’s been one of the deadliest closers in basketball for the better part of 15 years. It’s one of the characteristics he shares with Doncic.
At that point Dirk was 3-0 in game sevens averaging 25 points, 53 percent shooting, 44 percent on threes, with 14.6 rebounds. Holy crap. Speaking of clutch, Desagana Diop completely changed that game when he came in for Dampier who fouled out. Diop completely shut down Tim Duncan down the stretch and might be why they won that game. Dirk only took one shot from three which is wild to me. Basketball has changed so much even in the last 12 years.
One last thing I took away from this 2006 game is that prime Steve Nash and prime Dirk would have lit the world on fire.
I know most of these opinions aren’t ground breaking but they’re new to someone who’s only been watching basketball consistently for seven years. These NBA TV team days certainly provide an enjoyable way to relive great Mavericks games through a fresh lens, whether you remember them personally or are comparing them to the current day teams.
For now I’ll just watch this play on a loop until media day is here.