this is dirk. he likes his 5's high and his hair flowing. he is now an nba champion. i didn't want either of the miami heat or dallas mavericks competing for the championship, which made both conference finals difficult to watch. but i chose to align myself with dirk nowitzki, and it was the first time since the 2002-2003 season (that's when he played alongside favorite players, steve nash and nick van exel) that i had done so.
this may come as a surprise to some of you knowing that lebron james and i have been as close as best friends can be over the past few years and you may wonder why i rooted against his team. it's a bit complicated, but i would like to give a brief explanation. i've been roommates with lebron this season and we've been through a lot. he's been playing under more scrutiny than any athlete has probably ever endured and i've been his shoulder to cry on and ice cream supplier on the nights when he was ready to fold. after the chicago series, lebron was in high spirits because he shut down mvp, derrick rose, and did everything right and miami only needed 5 games to win the series. he was closing out games like he was getting paid to (which he is) and sportswriters were comparing him to michael jordan. i wanted chicago to win the series, because i had been telling lebron to give it a season to see if he really wanted to win his first championship with this miami team. you only win your first time once and do you really want to win it with juwan howard? i wouldn't either. but they won the series and he played well and seemed happy and that made me happy and i suggested that we play a game of sorry to celebrate, but also to take our minds off of basketball for a little while. he agreed. since he was in a such a good mood, i thought it would be fun to throw a few zings at him. i started to do this after the boston series to help keep him grounded. when i beat him in sorry after that series, i knelt down on one knee and did the same pose that he did after beating boston and held that position for nearly two hours. lebron laughed for about 45 minutes of that time, but then became annoyed and told me to quit playin'. this time around he asked me what color pieces i wanted to be. to answer his question, i re-enacted "the decision" and started to tell him my choice, but paused as though it was difficult, and then said "i will be taking my talents to the blue pieces," and he smiled, but i could tell he didn't care much for my joke, but i don't know when to stop, and before we sat down to play the game i pulled out some chalk powder and threw it in the air. but i had too much in my hands and it got all over the board and in lebron's eyes and when he started to yell in pain, some of the powder fell in his mouth and produced a wheezy cough, which caused a cartoonish puff of white powder to blow out of his mouth. i laughed, but lebron was furious and told me that i should quit playing and suggested that i find a new place to live. as he said that, puffs of powder continued to exit his mouth and i defensively said, "sure, that's fine, but gimme the news, not the weather, man." and then i packed up my stuff upset that lebron couldn't take a joke and more upset because i didn't know where i was going to stay. i called up my old friend, dirk, to see if i could crash at his place, but he was afraid i would distract him, but gave me jj barea's number and told me that he should have room for me. i wasn't too excited about calling, because i had engaged in some pretty intense heckling of jj when dallas visited miami during the regular season, but i ended up making the call out of desperation. turns out he wasn't too excited to hear from me either and asked, "why should i let you stay with me?" i answered, "because i'm taller than you and it will be fun."
my moving in with jj barea proved to be detrimental to his offensive productivity during the first half of the series. the reason why was before game 1 in miami, the two of us rented rollerblades so we could blade along the miami beaches and impress women with our tricks and shirtless beach bodies, but i don't know any tricks and my shirtless beach body is nowhere near what it should be, so i was going to film jj with my shirt on and then post the videos on youtube so he could not only impress women in person, but also electronically. we had the option to rent wrist guards and jj was looking like he wanted to and started talking about something in his contract that forbids extreme sports during the season, but i told him that we didn't need them and that it was just more money and how they would have made us look less cool. he was still nervous about it, but since he would have been the only one wearing them, he didn't rent the wrist guards. we started to cruise down the boardwalk and i spotted a bench that is perfect for doing women-impressing rollerblade tricks. jj gave himself some room to obtain proper speed and eventual air and i got the camera ready. jj rolled right up to the bench and jumped over it, clearing it with ease. there were three girls that were watching and they about lost their minds after he landed the jump. one of them walked up to me and asked, "how long have you guys been aggressive inline skating?" and i thought she was serious so i told her, "i can't speak for jj, but i've been doing this off and on for about 15 years." and she laughed in my face and i could smell that she had just finished some taco bell. and since she was making fun of us, i asked her how long she had been eating cheesy bean & rice burritos from taco bell. she told me i had some nerve asking a question like that. and i told her she had some nerve eating all of those burritos without me. we then stared at each other for a few seconds because she was trying to figure out if i had just made a move on her and i was trying to figure out the same thing, but deep down i knew i hadn't. jj had heard her mocking laughter and thought that in order to get her to respect the sport we love, he would have to do something even sicker. he bladed backwards in three smooth circles, stopped, and then started to blade towards the bench again. i was so amp'd at this point, because when jj blades with purpose there's no telling what kind of sickness he'll come down with, you know what i mean? he gets about four feet away from the bench and jumps and i can see that he's setting up for a fishbrain grind and i can hardly contain myself, because he's about to impress three women at the same time. only he didn't, because he jumped too soon and hit his left front wheel on the bench and was going headfirst towards the cement, but luckily caught himself with his hands. the girls laughed and polluted the air with their chalupa breath and i bladed over to jj's aid. he was holding on to his right wrist and he shoots with his right hand and that's why he didn't shoot well during the first half of the finals. i was nervous about it, but i spoke to dallas coach, rick carlisle, and told him everything and how it was my fault and that he should go easy on jj. coach carlisle was surprisingly understanding and all he did was make a cheesy smile and say "alrighty then," and "sssmokin'!" and i thought that was nice of him, but it turns out that i was actually talking to jim carrey. coach carlisle never heard about the wrist injury and played jj as much as he normally would. luckily his wrist healed and he came through during the second half of the series.
the crazy thing is lebron didn't see me in the stands until game 4. there was a moment during the pregame shoot around where we made eye contact. i was sitting behind the dallas bench wearing my nick van exel mavericks jersey. lebron's mouth dropped open and a basketball dropped from his hand and he would never be the same after that. you see, lebron didn't realize how much he missed me. word got back to me that he had been asking around to see where i had been staying and when he found out that it was with jj and heard about all the fun we were having, he felt left out, and that's a hard feeling to shake.
other reasons for lebron's meltdown might be some of the things i had told him before the finals. i got in the bad habit of giving terrible advice as a joke, but like always, lebron didn't know i was joking. i told him that winning and giving effort were becoming too mainstream and that if he wanted to be cool, he should stop doing both of those things. i also brought up that charles barkley is one of the best nba players to never win a championship and that if lebron really wanted to stick it to him for being highly critical of lebron signing with miami, he should take the title of the best nba player to never win a championship.
once again, so many things have been written and said about lebron, but he did and didn't do a lot of things in that series that made us all ask, "what's he doing? why is he not attacking the rim? why is mario chalmers at the line more than lebron? why is he passing the ball to juwan howard? how is shawn marion scoring so easily on him when marion literally shoots from the hip?" it was weird, and even though i didn't want the heat to win, it wasn't easy to watch.
i like watching lebron play, but especially when he was the guy in cleveland. the way he attacked the rim and distributed the ball and won as much as he did with mo williams as the next best option was pretty amazing. his celebrations didn't seem as fake as they do now, but maybe i, along with everyone else, have just become more critical of him. during these playoffs, he started to make that goofy face while he screams and bobs his head (the face can be seen in the picture below). it kind of gave the same feeling that kobe's underbite growl face gives me. it just all began to feel overwhelmingly calculated. it was like he and teammate, chris bosh, were trying to outdo each other for the most awkward celebrations (by the way, chris bosh won hands down with the creepy way he licked his lips and each time he flexed and screamed). it got to the point where i just wanted dwyane wade to shoot every time so i didn't have to see the other two celebrate. i like how wade stares down the crowd in a way that says, "yes, i know i just did something more athletic than anyone besides lebron james can do on this court." he has a natural cool about him that lebron and bosh don't have. wade had a few great games during the series and there were stretches where he was doing whatever wanted with the ball. the crazy part is that he appeared to be doing it all half asleep. he has a look on his face that makes him appear to have hit the after party before the game even started. he injured his hip during the first half of game 5, and then after he hit a big shot in the second half he made a goofy face as he ran up the court. little did we know that the headline "wade hurts his hip" would carry two meanings. i wish whatever bosh has wasn't so contagious.
while watching the finals, i also asked the question, "what's going on in there?" in reference to jason kidd's head anytime the cameras were on him. he looks and sounds like he is elsewhere. jeff van gundy said that he likes jason kidd's demeanor and that he's always poised and not afraid of the moment, but when you have no idea what's going on it's pretty easy to not fear the moment. i asked the same question every time he threw a pass into the seventh row instead of to a cutting shawn marion, who started towards the basket three seconds before kidd threw the pass to where marion was just at. it was those kind of plays in the first four games, as well as the poor shooting by most players besides dirk, that made it hard to breathe until the fourth quarter when they seemed to put something together. it also might have had to do with how their poor passing contrasted with miami's great passing. i could watch lebron and dwyane wade pass a basketball back and forth all day.
i'm glad dirk got his ring, and even jason kidd (hit some big shots). i usually can't stand jason terry and jj barea, but the way they played big boy basketball on the biggest stage made me respect them.
dallas, it was a good six game fling. i hope we never have another.
what it comes down to is that lebron james can't win. whatever he does or doesn't do is going to be puzzled over and picked apart by anyone who cares about basketball. i don't care that he's playing in miami anymore. if i had the option to work with my friends in nice weather, i would too. but the guy is getting paid big money to be an entertainer and a winner and he was neither of those things during the last few games. but even if he never wins as many championships as jordan or kobe, i'd rather hang out with lebron. he lets me be the blue pieces.
2011 nba finals stories that didn't receive enough media coverage:
- we went into this series knowing that either mike bibby or peja stojakovic would finally be getting a ring after they were robbed of one while playing on the 2002 sacramento kings (see tim donaghy).
- juwan howard is the only fab 5 player to play in the nba finals (chris webber would have been the first with the 2002 sacramento kings if it wasn't for tim donaghy).
- deshawn stevenson was the first player in nba history to compete in and win the finals with a backwards pittsburgh pirates logo tattooed on his face. to be more specific, he is the first player in nba history to go 13-23 from 3land in the nba finals with a backwards pittsburgh pirates logo tattooed on his face.
- after cameras caught chris bosh collapsing in tears in the tunnel leading to the locker room after game 6, we now know he was one of the players who was crying in the miami locker room when coach erik spoelstra said that there were players in the miami locker room crying after a losing streak towards the end of the regular season.
the pose after the boston series.
mike miller is the guy with the ball in his hand. until this season, the majority of the games he has played in have been irrelevant, so he's still learning how to celebrate important victories. this picture shows him getting ready to throw the ball at the back of lebron's head. taj gibson (bulls) looks on with childlike wonder as lebron braces himself for the 2011 version of miller time. and that's udonis haslem just being himself.
dirk is neither waving hello nor goodbye. he's getting your attention, because he wants to high 5 you and hates to be left hanging. the only hanging he wants to be doing is from a rim 10 feet above a hardwood floor right after he's slam dunked it on chris bosh's face.
i'd like to dedicate this post and this youtube video to my brother, nick, on his birthday. back in '95, nick and i loved this commercial. it was the toughest thing i'd seen or heard at the time.