The Dallas Mavs have been one of the top teams in the West over the last two decades or so. This alone is an accomplishment itself being that the West is generally the tougher conference. And in the process of their pursuit of success, they have built rivalries with several teams. Some teams took the rivalry in stride for the sake of some good old competition. while some took it to the extreme by sending out jabs off the court. But in hindsight and looking into the future, all these elements built a strong feud that fans will keep looking back to and at the same time, look forward to.
The Lakers-Mavericks rivalry isn’t as deep as the other ones in this list. But the fact that the two were considered one of the top teams simultaneously in the West for almost two decades warrants a brief examination.
From 2000-2010, both the Lakers and Mavs were perennial playoff contenders. The Lakers were stacking up their titles while the Mavs had always remained a legitimate title contender. Given this, it’s almost safe to assume that Mavs fans hate the Purple and Gold’s guts. After all, winning is all that matters in any sport. While there’s enough reason to be happy at being a contender, there’s so much pleasure in being heralded as the best.
However, the Mavs finally got their “revenge” when they foiled the Lakers’ three-peat in the 2011 Western Conference Semifinals. Kobe Bryant was gunning for that sixth title to finally match Michael Jordan, the player he’s often been compared to. But Dirk Nowitzki and company completely shut his hopes down. They took care of the Purple and Gold in four games. And as fate would have it, they went on to win the title that season.
After their 2006 NBA Finals defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat, the Mavericks struggled mightily in the playoffs. The lowest point came in 2007 where they were upset by the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors in the first round. Their struggles would go on for a few more seasons. And during this time, the Oklahoma City Thunder were beefing up their squad through draft picks.
The Thunder’s rise became a sour patch for the Mavs and their quest for redemption. While the Mavs were still piling up regular-season victories, all eyes were on the rising young talents in Oklahoma. However, the Mavs got the chance to show everyone that they’re still relevant and well within their prime. In the 2011 Western Conference Finals, they humbled to young Thunder squad. They did by booting out Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden in five games. They went on to win the title by beating the Miami Heat. But in the following season, the Thunder came back stronger and swept the Mavs convincingly in the first round. This time, the Thunder would go all the way to the NBA Finals.
3.) Houston Rockets
Known as the I-45 rivalry (because the two teams both lie on Interstate 45), the Rockets and the Mavs have built their feud through tons of regular-season games and several playoff duels. They have faced each other three times in the playoffs. Among their postseason duels, perhaps the 2005 NBA Playoffs is the most memorable. After all, the series stretched to seven games with the Mavs coming out on top. Though it was Nowitzki and crew who came out on top, they looked exhausted in the following round. They fell to the lower-seeded Phoenix Suns in just six games.
Apart from the games, there are other layers to this rivalry. Remember when Mavs owner Mark Cuban and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey went at it through social media as well as coursing their jabs through interviews? Most NBA executives don’t necessarily engage in such antics for the sake of diplomacy. But Cuban and Morey are two extremely competitive individuals, much like their players. Thanks to them, the Rockets-Mavs rivalry took on another level.
2.) Miami Heat
The rivalry kicked-off in the 2006 NBA Finals. After being perennial playoff contenders for so long, Nowitzki and the Mavs finally made it to the NBA Finals. They were pretty much the favorites to win that series after locking in a 60-win season. Besides, though the Heat had a dominant Shaquille O’Neal, analysts didn’t expect much from a young Dwyane Wade. So when the Mavs went up 2-0 in the series, people thought they had it in the bag. But lo and behold, Wade and company retaliated and won four straight games. As the world celebrated the birth of a star, the Mavs and Nowitzki were cast aside.
The Mavs would get their chance at redemption in the 2011 NBA Finals. This time, the Mavs were up against a tougher version of the Heat: a squad led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. The tables were turned as analysts favored the powerhouse Heat squad over the seemingly aging Mavs. But as the saying goes, anything is possible in the NBA. The Mavs upset the Heat in six games, bringing the Mavs its first-ever title in franchise history. What made it sweeter was that they won it over the team that took it away from them years before.
1.) San Antonio Spurs
For the past two decades, the Spurs and the Mavs have engaged in classic playoff battles. The two teams have always been considered one of the top honchos of not just the West, but the entire league as well. So it’s pretty inevitable that when they meet in the postseason, a tough matchup is about to ensue.
The 2003 NBA playoffs was a great year for both squads. Both of them locked in 60-win seasons and met in the Western Conference Finals. It was the best season in the Mavs’ history then. So one can just imagine the pain they felt after falling to the Spurs in six games. Three years later in 2006, the two met again in the second round. It’s probably one of the tightest playoff series in history. It went on for seven games with two games decided in overtime. The average winning margin was just six points.
In addition, both Spurs and the Mavs seem inextricably linked. Not just because both of them are in Texas. But a look at their history reveals they are one of the two teams in NBA history to succumb to eighth-seeded teams in the first round playoffs. In 2007, the Mavs lost to the Golden State Warriors. In 2011, the Spurs lost to the Memphis Grizzlies. So you could just imagine one laughing at the other and then falling to karma years later.