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Best Moments Of The 2011 NBA Finals

Dave Dulberg |
June 14, 2011 | 2:00 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

 Keith Allison via Creative Commons)
Keith Allison via Creative Commons)
The 2011 NBA Finals didn’t pit two franchises with traditions deeply rooted in the league’s 63-year history. There were no long-standing rivalries (unless you consider a Finals rematch a rivalry) between the passionate fan bases of the two representative cities. And unlike last year, there would be no Game 7.

But for everything it wasn’t billed as going into the series, the 2011 NBA Finals provided the basketball world with six of the most jump-out-of-your couch championship games in the last decade.

Celebration is the best form of paying homage. So here are the five most indelible moments of the last two weeks, which will forever be etched in basketball lore, or at the very least serve as instant mainstays on NBA TV and ESPN Classic.

No.5- South Beach Dunk-a-thon

Thanks in part to the 31 turnovers committed by the Mavericks over the course of the first 96 minutes of this series, the Heat’s Big 3 combined for nine highlight reel-esque dunks.

Whether it was Dwayne Wade going coast-to-coast, LeBron James flushing one back in on a put back or Chris Bosh capitalizing on a terrific alley-oop lob pass, there were instances in Games 1 and 2 where the NBA’s banner showcase looked more like an exhibition of once-in-a-generation athleticism and grace.

No.4- The Comeback

There are moments that occur on the grandest of stages that years later are remembered by simple monikers: “The Catch,” “The Drive” and “The Shot Heard Round the World.”

They personify the rarest of achievements in the face of great athletic adversity.

 While the Dallas Mavericks’ 22-4 run during the final seven minutes and thirteen seconds of Game 2 wasn’t the largest in the 4th quarter of an NBA Finals contest (Bulls came back from 16 down to beat the Blazers in the series-clinching game of the 1992 Finals), it certainly is worthy of being deemed “The Comeback.”

From their tremendous defense on James and Wade (had only two shots in the 4th) from the perimeter, to Jason Terry’s clutch shot-making to Dirk Nowitzski’s crafty left-handed, game-winning layup with three seconds remaining, Rick Carlisle’s squad shifted the momentum of not only Game 2 in a flurry but the entire series.

No.3 The JET Flies High in Game 5

For a typical sixth man, averaging 15 points per game through the first four games of the NBA Finals is nothing to hang your head about. But for Jason Terry, Dallas’ lethal boost of energy of the bench, 19-of-49 shooting heading into a momentum-changing Game 5 simply was not good enough.

But rather than back away from the spotlight and even the honest words of his long-time teammate Nowitzki- who said the team needed more production from their sixth man extraordinaire – the U of A alum basked in it.

From the imprint of the Larry O’Brien Trophy on his right biceps to his declaration that LeBron could not guard him for an entire series, Terry looked to a have written a check with his mouth that his game couldn’t cash.

That was until the pivotal Game 5.

With Mavericks trailing 99-95 with just under five minutes remaining, the JET proved he was more than a trash-talking second fiddle. From his assist to a cutting Nowitzki to his game-tying three-pointer to his dribble-drive penetration move and dish out to a wide open Jason Kidd for three to his back-breaking shot from way downtown in the final moments, Terry not only helped his team soar to victory, he essentially carried them down the stretch.

No.2 Cuban Proves Classiness

Say what you will about the dot.com billionaire who took over a beleaguered franchise and immediately changed the culture of the organization on the court and off it, Mark Cuban cares about the Dallas Mavericks in a way few owners do about their team.

Since acquiring a majority stake in the team from Ross Perot, Jr. back in 2000, his reputation has been defined by his brashness, unorthodox rooting style (at least by owners’ standards) and flare for the dramatic and controversial.

The word classy is not the first idea most opposing fans conjure up when thinking of Cuban, but it’s hard not to after the purely genuine move he pulled following Game 6.

After all of his previous confrontations with David Stern, the easiest and likely most enjoyable thing for the Mavs’ owner to have done would have been to greet the NBA commissioner on the podium with a wide grin and a witty comment for good measure.

Cuban elected to take the high road, and instead had Don Carter, the Godfather of Basketball in North Texas (the franchise’s first owner dating back to 1979), accept the team’s first championship trophy- a move few saw coming but a fitting one indeed.

No.1 A Legacy Defined

The best moment of the 2011 NBA Finals is the one nobody but Dirk Nowitzki saw.

As the final seconds ticked down in Game 6, the Big German didn’t stand around waiting to hug his teammates and coaches. He ran to the locker room to have an emotional moment to himself. And after 13 long years, who could blame him.

While it wasn’t captured on tape like Michael Jordan’s tearful locker room floor celebration on Father’s Day in 1996, one can only imagine what the native of Wurzburg, Germany was thinking.

There is a tendency for fans, media members and pundits alike to rank players when they achieve greatness. But sometimes comparisons between the legends of basketball’s pantheon of champions can come across as a bit trite.

Who knows where Nowitzki ultimately falls on the list of the NBA’s list of Top 50 players. Regardless, adding a championship ring, a Finals MVP and a postseason run for the ages to go along with his numerous accolades (2007 MVP, 10-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA first team, seven-time European Player of the Year) solidifies one thing: he is and will always be considered an elite player in the annals of the league’s history.

Honorable Mentions: Any second Brian Cardinal stepped on the floor (and who can’t forget the two 3s he hit in Game Five and Six?), Ian Mahinmi’s pre-game huddle tribal scream, ABC’s camera zoom on DeShawn Stevenson’s 505 neck tattoo (he also happened to go an astounding 10-of-18 from three-point range), LeBron’s Game 3 post-game press conference and Chris Bosh falling to his knees in emotional distress following Game 6.


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