I was one of those people before the NBA season began that said a “Big 3” in Miami was bad for the league as a whole. Well, almost one year later, and I have to say that I was dead wrong about that. The NBA probably just had its most successful season in years. Despite being hated by just about the entire league, the Miami Heat drew many people to the NBA, and created an interest in the league that hasn’t been seen since the Michael Jordan era in Chicago back in the 90’s.
The Miami Heat were picked by many to destroy the league and win a title in their first year. They even held their own celebration last July that was perceived by many to be a preseason NBA championship party. It was clear that the rest of the league would despise them from that moment on. Despite all of the interest revolving around the Miami Heat, the rest of the league seemed to thrive in the background.
The Chicago Bulls were privileged to be home to the youngest MVP in league history, Derrick Rose, as well as end the regular season with the league’s best record. The San Antonio Spurs posted one of the best first halves of a season in NBA history before the all-star break. The Los Angeles Lakers went seventeen for eighteen in one stretch after all-star weekend, breaking out the realistic possibility of a 3-peat for NBA champion. The Boston Celtics, despite many older players, continued their remarkable success by finishing third in the Eastern Conference.
But all the while, the main story continued to be the Miami Heat, and Lebron James. Would Lebron finally win his first ring? Would the Heat get past their nemesis, the Boston Celtics? Would their string of ugly results in close games continue into the playoffs? The Miami Heat seemed to answer every question posed upon them by running through the Eastern Conference playoffs, beating the Sixers, Bulls, and Celtics all in five games. The Western Conference playoffs were quite the opposite, with much drama and more excitement.
The one seed Spurs were upset in the first round by a feisty Memphis Grizzlies squad. The Dallas Mavericks answered many of their critics, who picked them to be upset by Portland, with a convincing series win over the Trail Blazers in the first round. The Lakers seemed to be exposed by Chris Paul and the Hornets, despite winning the series in six games. The young Thunder looked to be the dark horse pick with their thumping of the Nuggets. Despite all of that, nothing compared to what happened in the second round, when the Dallas Mavericks swept the two time defending champion Lakers in 4 games.
Dallas, having been a team that failed miserably in the playoffs in previous years, had seemed to turn the corner. Their final hurdle to get to the NBA Finals was a test against Oklahoma City, and they passed with flying colors in five games. This set up arguably the most anticipated NBA championship in years, with a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals. Would Dirk Nowitzki finally shed his “soft” label? Would Dwayne Wade dominate like he did in 2006? Would Dallas’ team play beat the star power of the Heat?
The NBA Finals took six breathtaking games to decide the winner. And even more stunning was the fact that the favorites didn’t win. Dallas had done what Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago didn’t: make the Miami superstar trio look ordinary. While Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Lebron James all had their moments in the series, it was Dallas’ team chemistry and zone defense that proved to be the difference. Miami had no answer for players like JJ Barea, Jason Terry, and Jason Kidd all stepping up in crucial moments. Most of all, they could not stop Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki. They threw the entire kitchen sink at him, and he still was able to torch the vaunted Heat defense time after time again.
Dallas’ triumph was seemingly celebrated by everyone that wasn’t a Heat fan. It also proved that a trio of talented superstars without a good supporting cast eventually will be defeated by a team playing unstoppable and beautiful basketball. Dallas bucked the trend of teams needing multiple All-Stars to win a championship. They did it with one, but that one shined above Miami’s three.
The 2010-2011 NBA season was probably the most successful in the past ten years. People that weren’t drawn to basketball seemed to flock to the games and watch the drama as it unfolded. Now, comes the offseason. The biggest story has to be the need for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. If this season was any proof that the NBA will be even better in the future, the NBA Players and Owners will not allow a lockout, something the NFL succumbed to. Because, if there is one, then everyone loses.