“Dirk won the toughest ring out of all superstars in 2011”
PATH TO AN NBA TITLE

“Dirk won the toughest ring out of all superstars in 2011”

“At the end of the day, all the people that were rooting for me to fail … at the end of the day, tomorrow they have to wake up and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They got the same personal problems they had today. And I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things I want to do.”

This is one of the rare moments LeBron James lost his cool and took it out on his haters. He still calls them out now and then, but in 18 years of being in the NBA, this post-game press conference from 2011 is one of LeBron’s worst PR moments ever. And it came right after his worst basketball moment ever.

LeBron’s 2011 Finals performance is something many still describe as the “biggest superstar meltdown in NBA history” – Skip Bayless is the leader of that group. But the ones who can step away from what James did (or wasn’t able to do) in that series and point their attention elsewhere will say something like this instead.

Richaun Holmes isn’t the leader of that group, but he is the latest to give Dirk Nowitzki credit for how the 2011 Finals played out. And fairly so – on their way to the organization’s only NBA championship, the Mavericks beat a very good Blazers team, swept the defending champions Lakers, beat a very good young OKC squad led by Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka, and capped off their postseason run with six-game Finals win over Miami Heat’s Big Three of LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. And unlike LeBron, Dirk showed up big as a team superstar.

He won the Finals MVP, averaging 26 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 2 assists on 41.6/36.8/97.8 shooting splits, securing himself a way out of the NBA’s ringless club and cementing his legacy as an all-time great without an infamous stain on his resume. And not only that, he did it as the ultimate underdog.

A decade later, Holmes not only gave credit to Dirk but pointed to one thing about that Finals series people should talk more about – that was without the doubt one of the toughest paths to an NBA championship ever. According to the Kings’ big man, the only other that comes close to Dallas’ is the historic comeback the Cavaliers pulled off in 2016.

I would add one more championship run to the discussion – the 1995 Houston Rockets and their series of comeback wins against Karl Malone and John Stockton with the Jazz, Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns, David Robinson and the Spurs, along with the Finals sweep against the Magic. But you can’t go wrong declaring Dirk’s 2011 run with Dallas the toughest one in NBA history.

The King would obviously disagree – he already said he’d won two hardest championships in NBA history. But this shouldn’t be about LeBron and neither should the 2011 Finals, despite it being the biggest stain on his NBA resume.