From 2009-2019, powerhouse teams have dominated the playoffs. A team that entered the postseason as a one seed has won it all a whopping 60 percent of the time.
This is the NBA era we live in today. A team that doesn’t have at least two or three superstars is incapable of winning it all. As the arms race for these stars increases, teams have begun stacking these players and creating teams that look similar to All-Star squads.
But there was one team in the last ten years that surprised almost everyone when they took home the trophy. This is the story of how the Dallas Mavericks took an aging group of guys mostly past their prime, the greatest European player in NBA history, and a few decent role players all the way to a surprising title run.
When you look at the Mavericks roster in the 2010-11, there are some names that immediately stand out.
Dirk Nowitzki, obviously. Jason Kidd, duh. Shawn Marion, of course. Caron Butler, Peja Stojakovic, Tyson Chandler, and Jason Terry are all names that even casual NBA fans are acquainted with.
So why would this team be a random winner? Seems like those names would make up a pretty solid roster.
You’d be right, but when you take in to account their player performances in that particular year, and who the Mavs had to go up against, very few people were betting on Dallas to take it all the way.
With all those big names I just listed off, you’d probably bet that the Mavs had, at the very least, two current All-Stars on the team that won it all.
Surprisingly, they only had one in Dirk. Everyone else was past his prime. In fact, no one on that Mavs roster, with the exception of Dirk, would ever be an All-Star again.
If you ran this squad out in 2007, they might be favorites. Kidd, Marion, and Butler all were named to the All-Star team that year, along with Dirk. But this was four years ago, and Father Time was catching up to the veterans.
So while the Mavs were definitely a competitive team, it was a stretch to consider them serious contenders. Before the season started, Westgate gave the Mavericks +2,000 odds to win the championship. That was only the seventh best chances in the league.
For reference, the Warriors were listed at a -120 to win the championship in 2017, and a -187 in 2018. They were favored to win it all over the ENTIRE field of NBA teams, before the season even started. Twice.
So yeah, the Mavericks weren’t exactly inspiring confidence in NBA gamblers.
The regular season upped the team’s confidence a little. They finished with the third best record in the Western Conference, and a matchup against the Mavs. This would end up being the only series they were favored to win during their entire championship run.
The Mavs dispatched of the Blazers in a six game series, then ran in to the Lakers.
L.A. was coming off of a championship season. The team was still deadly, with the likes of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol still leading the purple and gold.
But the upstart Mavs exposed them. In a shocking turn, the defending champs were swept, with the coup de grace coming in the form of a 36-point blowout in Game Four.
Next up was the Thunder. It only took Nowitizki and the Mavs five games to finish up the Durant led team. Of the Mavs four wins, three came with the team down in the fourth quarter. But Dirk had hit his stride, and he wasn’t about to stop now.
Now, the only thing standing in the Maverick’s way of the Larry O’Brien trophy was the Miami Heat. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh had formed a three-headed monster that teams would attempt to replicate for years to come. But this year, the Big Three would be schooled by one German 7 footer and some savvy vets.
Dirk was untouchable during the series. He was the top scorer for the Mavs in five out of the six games. He engineered the largest comeback in NBA Finals history in Game 2. It was obvious he was the best player on the floor at the time.
In six games, the Mavericks cemented their place in the NBA history books. During their run, almost every single role player had outperformed expectations to carry Dallas to victory.
Jason Terry became a scoring machine. Jason Kidd turned back the clock for an ageless performance. Tyson Chandler locked down the paint. DeShawn Stevenson was the typical enforcer, protecting Dirk and providing hard-nosed play for every playoff game.
Thanks to all of these components, as well as a performance for the ages from Nowitzki, the Mavericks became the second lowest seed of the decade to win a championship. They overcame tremendous odds and a lack of star power to shock the NBA world.
We might never see a team built like the 2010-11 Mavericks win it all ever again. It’s almost laughable to picture a group with one All-Star go the distance in today’s entire league.
But you never know. Maybe one guy will go off as Dirk did and put the team on his back. It’s a long shot, but as this story shows, long shot does not mean impossible.