One of the things everyone mentioned when talking about Giannis and his decision was Dirk Nowitzki winning with Dallas, sticking with the franchise that gave him a chance through thick and thin. The Mavericks winning against the Heat in 2011 is one of the most beloved titles in 29 NBA cities. Everyone hated Miami, and according to his teammate, Dirk was no exception.
The Heatles were conceived with one of the worst moments in LeBron‘s career, The Decision. Then they doubled down at their introduction with “not one, not two, not three” – the arrogance was through the roof. On the other side, Dirk actually did what LeBron promised he would do – he stayed. To top it off, Dwayne Wade came into the matchup with the ’05/’06 ring, one many believe belongs to Dirk, but was given to Wade by the refs. It was personal.
“He hated Miami; he hated LeBron, Wade, Bosh. He’s never gonna say it, but he couldn’t stand it. He got ready for it.”JJ Barea, The Old Man & the Three
All that, the dramatic Finals loss in 2006, being doubted for five years, labeled not clutch – it fueled a fire teammates didn’t see in Dirk before. Avery Johnson’s stint as a Mavericks coach is polarizing, but Mark Stein always points out Johnson was the one who made Dirk tough, attack the rim and get physical. A warrior came out the Mavs didn’t see before. Dirk was ready to take them all on.
“Dirk leads by example; he doesn’t lead by talking. But that year in time-outs, that year before the games, he would talk, and he would talk loud. He would point fingers – he was ON.”JJ Barea, The Old Man & the Three
As if all this wasn’t enough, the Heat made a crucial mistake. With the Heat up 2-1, Dirk played sick in Game 4, carrying a 101 °F (38 °C) fever. After the game, LeBron and Wade were seen pretending to cough, implying Dirk was faking his illness. This wasn’t just stupid because the Mavs won that game with a Nowitzki buzzer-beater. They gave Dirk extra motivation, where there was none lacking in the first place.
“When LeBron and Wade started making fun of him by coughing, when Dirk got a little sick – that clip really hurt him. He will never say it, but he saw the tape, and that tape really hurt him. That gave him a little extra he didn’t need, but it gave him a little extra to finish them off.”JJ Barea, The Old Man & the Three
If there’s one thing you can’t say about Dirk is that he disrespects the game. Nowitzki stayed with his team, played the game the right way, and was proud of it. Questioning his integrity sealed Miami’s fate.
After winning the title, Dirk was nowhere to be found on the court. All the sacrifice and time dreaming about that moment crumbled down, and he just went to the locker room to cry his heart out. Nowitzki actually almost didn’t go out for the ceremony, but in the end, Dirk realized he would regret not sharing that moment with his teammates forever if he didn’t.