Dirk Nowitzki is one of the greatest players in NBA history. He’s a champion. An MVP. A Finals MVP. He’s a 14-time All-Star, a 12-time All-NBA selection and the league’s sixth all-time leading scorer. But perhaps the most respected, or at least the most endearing number on Dirk’s career resume is one.
As in, he played for one franchise.
Dirk stuck with the Dallas Mavericks for 21 seasons, and when he won that championship in 2011, it was different than the titles a lot of these guys win by playing musical franchises until they land on a winner. That was a title the NBA community celebrated as a whole.
The Mavericks, of course, won that title against the Miami Heat in the infamous Big 3’s first season together. It was one of the most hated teams in history, turning the universally revered LeBron James into a villain. According to his former teammate J.J. Barea, Nowitzki was right there with everyone else.
“… He hated Miami,” Barea said on J.J. Redick’s “The Old Man and the Three” podcast. “He hated LeBron, Wade, Bosh. He’s never going to say that, but he couldn’t stand it.”
The implication is that Nowitzki didn’t necessarily hate LeBron, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh personally, but that he hated the idea of three All-NBA players taking a championship shortcut by coming together in their primes rather than continuing to fight the good fight, as Nowitzki had and continued to do in Dallas.
But the disdain may have turned more personal when LeBron and Wade started openly mocking Nowitzki for making it known to the media that he hadn’t been feeling well prior to Game 5, perhaps suggesting Nowitzki was building in an excuse, or that he was soft, or maybe that he just wasn’t cut out for the big stage. Here’s the incriminating video.
Whatever the intention of LeBron and Wade, they apparently lit a fire under Nowitzki, and by extension the Mavericks, who in the wake of the video proceeded to win the next two games to steal the ring right off Miami’s collective finger.
“When LeBron and Wade started making fun of him by coughing when he got a little sick … that clip really hurt him,” Barea said. “He will never say it, but he really saw the tape, and that tape really hurt him, and that gave him a little bit extra, that he didn’t need, but it gave him a little extra to finish them off.”