Dallas' 105-95 win Sunday night in Miami made it official: Dirk Nowitzki, a great player called a choke artist for much of his career, is now an NBA champion. It's been a long road for the best European player in NBA history, and he's finally at a point where no one can criticize him for having an incomplete career.
In most cases, you'd expect a player to celebrate a moment like this one by soaking in the moment on the court. However, an emotional Nowitzki declined a public celebration and ran off the court to gather his thoughts in the locker room with still 1.2 seconds showing on the clock. It was a very touching moment that the ABC TV crew was lucky enough to capture in the video above.
After the game, Dirk explained his walk off the court in an interview with ESPN's Hannah Storm:
"I had to get a moment. I was crying a bit. I was a little emotional. … I actually didn't want to come out for the trophy, but the guys talked me into it."
It would've been interesting to see David Stern present the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player trophy to an absent Dirk, so it's probably a good thing that he ended up coming back out. Plus, while Nowitzki didn't have a stellar game on Sunday (21 points on 9-of-27 shooting from the floor), this championship was his moment at the top. Dirk is Dallas' best and most talked about player, and he deserves all the praise that will come his way after this accomplishment.
It also makes complete sense that he was emotional after the game. In 2006, the Mavericks lost to the Heat in the Finals after winning the first two games at home. In 2007, they were the championship favorites and lost in the first round to the "We Believe" Warriors. Now, years after public opinion had determined his window had closed, Dirk is a champion. He's on top of the basketball world just two months after many experts had predicted the Mavericks would get upset in the first round by the Blazers.
However, Dirk and the rest of the Mavericks won Game 6 with a team effort. Nowitzki may not have had his best game, but Jason Terry (27 points on 11-of-16 FG) and Jose Juan Barea (15 points on 7-of-12 FG) helped pick up the slack. On the other side, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and the rest of the Heat looked sluggish late and couldn't make it close in the final minutes. It was a story similar to the first three Dallas wins in this series: The Mavs kept their composure while the Heat didn't get the job done late.
Congratulations to Dirk, the Mavericks and all their fans. They earned this championship.
(Video via Ben Golliver)
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- Dirk Nowitzki