You can’t make this stuff up. Death Wish, The Crow, Gladiator, Man on Fire, nothing gets a guys’ heart pumping like a good revenge flick. Could Mavs vs. Heat 2011 join the list of great payback pictures?
After five years of exile to a barren wasteland, a trio of men returns to avenge the loss of their collective manhood at the hands of the evil NBA Empire. Sounds like the tagline for a movie, but it’s befitting the scenario that has unfolded in the last forty-eight hours of playoff basketball in The Association. Make no mistake, Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowitzki, and Jason Terry have been in playoff purgatory for the past five years after being emasculated by the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals. For those that have been stranded on a deserted island for half a decade or so, the Mavs were up two games to none over the Heat, and were well on their way to a three-game lead when Dwayne Wade (and maybe an official or two) went out of his mind and carried his team to four consecutive victories to steal the championship. What followed was a downward spiral of epic proportions: four out of the next five seasons ending in first round flameouts, and the other ending in the second round. Inevitably, Nowitzki and Terry were painted as good, but soft players that wilted under playoff pressure. And now here we are, five seasons later, and the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat (pending the formality of their inevitable close-out win over the Bulls), are preparing to cross swords for the right to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. It’s Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd leading their band of role players and refugees from the island of misfit hoopsters against the heavily-favored tropical triumvirate from South Beach. It’s David vs. Goliath, Rocky vs. Apollo Creed, and Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader. Most of those outside of Florida will be rooting against the Heat after Lebron’s unceremonious dumping of his hometown hoops bride, Cleveland, for better-looking trophy wife, Miami, last off-season. Thus, we have our hero and our villain that everyone loves to hate.
You certainly won’t hear Nowitzki or Terry verbally acknowledge their thirst for retribution, but have no doubt, that fire burns within them. It has forged them into a strong, polished blade with a keen edge that, in all honesty, was lacking in other deep playoff runs. But will that edge be sharp enough to sever the grip Wade, James, and Bosh already seem to have on the NBA’s greatest prize? Most will say no, but this Mavericks team has been proving us all wrong throughout the postseason; first by beating the younger, more athletic Trailblazers in the first round, then sweeping the two-time defending champion Lakers in the second round, and finally by vanquishing the up-and-coming Thunder in five games. Only time will tell if Dallas’ new-found mettle will prove strong enough to carry them to a championship, but we can all get our popcorn and soda, and enjoy watching the underdog Mavericks try to defeat the villainous Heat in a good, old fashioned grudge match. This writer can’t wait to see how the story ends.