In what will come as a shock to no one who paid any attention at all to our tournament, Peja Stojakovic was crowned as your favorite one-year Maverick. Honestly, I assumed this would be the case before the voting even began. Tall euro shooter; former playoff foe; helped us win a championship. That’s the making of a fan favorite right there.
Peja’s career with the Mavericks was brief. He played in just 25 games during the regular season for Dallas after joining the team in January of 2011. He averaged 8.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 0.9 assists in those games. BUT he shot 40 percent from three. An indicator of what was to come.
Peja played 19 games in the playoffs for the Mavericks, which seems like an almost preposterously high number. And if you’re recalling that his playoff numbers spiked—you’re wrong. In fact, they were all a bit worse than his regular season stats. But none of that matters. He showed up when he was needed.
The hyper athletic Thunder and Heat were less than ideal match ups for him, but in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Stojakovic averaged 10.7 points per game on 46 percent shooting from three. He played his role to perfection: catch the ball, shoot the ball. He slid into this role so perfectly that through the first two rounds of the playoffs, he only had two assists—both coming in game 4 against the Los Angeles Lakers (wherein he also went 6/6 from deep and had three steals. Light work.) Flamethrower.
The late 90s are a blind spot in my Mavericks memory (and honestly that’s probably for the best) because I was into books or some other nerd shit or whatever. When my basketball brain kicked back on, some of my now-favorite memories are of HATING that early-2000s Sacramento Kings team. They were all that was wrong with basketball. Meaning, they were good and they weren’t the Mavericks. Eat shit, Doug Christie. (Jackie Christie: respect. Get your money.)
Peja signed with the New Orleans/OKC Hornets the summer before my senior year in high school. A former Mavericks enemy playing in my own backyard gave me a real reason to care about the Hornets. I still remember scrambling to get over to my friend Evan’s house in November of 2006 to watch Peja light up the Bobcats. Halfway through the first quarter the score was Bobcats- 17 to Hornets- 20. Peja had all 20 points. He finished with 42. My Peja love was high.
Peja only played in five more games that season, as injuries shut him down. But he had three strong seasons with the Hornets to follow that up. Including scoring in double figures in all five games as the Hornets kicked the shit out of the Mavericks in the 2008 playoffs. My Peja love was low.
But all is well that ends well, and this ended well for all parties involved. Peja walked away from the game as a Champion and forever a member of the Dallas Mavericks. The fans got what we wanted. Dirk got the ring he deserved, and Peja helped.
Feel free to drop your favorite Peja Stojakovic memories (from Dallas or otherwise) in the comments below.