Mavericks Cool Heat Down, Win NBA Championship
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Here is a sentence that nobody has ever been able to say before. The Dallas Mavericks won the pro basketball championship last night. It was their first title, sealed in game six of the NBA Championship Series with a final score of 105-95.
NPR's Mike Pesca was there.
MIKE PESCA: The Dallas Mavericks have won. The Dallas Mavericks are champions. The entry in the record book says Dallas Mavericks. The words do not read not the Miami Heat. Dirk Nowitzki was the finals MVP, not un-LeBron James.
The winner was the team that went on sustained scoring bursts, hit huge three pointers, and played shockingly good defense against supremely skilled players. The Mavericks were better in these six games. No need to see it as more than that. Only Mavs coach Rick Carlisle wouldn't mind if the victory were seen as more than that.
Mr. RICK CARLISLE (Coach, Dallas Mavericks): They have made a statement that's a colossal statement. You know, not just about our team but just about the game in general. Playing it a certain way. Playing collectively. Our team's not about individual ability. It's about collective will, collective grit, collective guts.
PESCA: Whether Carlisle was meaning to cite these virtues as in contrast to the talents of the vanquished heat, many will hear it that way. This has been a trope of the series - team versus individuals. The media pounded the theme, and Mavs players, like guard J.J. Barea certainly bought in.
Mr. J.J. BAREA (Dallas Mavericks): They're a great team, they're great players, but this is a team game and I think we proved it.
PESCA: Teams beat individuals. It's nice to believe that explains things. But LeBron James play came into question not because of selfishness, but if anything because he was too eager to be selfless.
James entered game six on the heels of an eight-point performance in game four in what was seen as a substandard 15-point performance in game five. That those 15 points came as part of a triple double did not make a difference to those who saw James as too willing to share his rightful spotlight.
After this game, in which James had 21, Heat forward Udonis Haslem defended his teammate from the charge of passivity.
Mr. UDONIS HASLEM (Miami Heat): I think a lot of it's been unfair. People have been looking to go at him ever since he came to Miami, so every little thing has been magnified and blown up. One thing you can't take away from him is he's the best player in the NBA, hands down. Say what you want to say. And all the people that complain wish he was on their team.
PESCA: At the post game press conference, James answered a Jason Terry-like torrent of incoming projectiles. Were you disappointed? Were you weighed down? Do you know that so many people wanted to see you fail?
James was polite.
Mr. LEBRON JAMES (Miami Heat): I'm not going to hang my head low.
Mr. JAMES: You can never hang your head low.
PESCA: And ultimately enigmatic.
Mr. JAMES: We have nothing to hang our heads low.
PESCA: Anyway, James won't be able to answer questions anywhere other than on the basketball court. In fact, he'll have to take to the court about 100 times before we start to care what his answer is. Like the Soviet hockey team, or the New York Yankees, James is in that odd situation where anything other than a championship is held as a failure.
This circumstance may be unfair to the 26-year-old. It's certainly unfair to every other team in the NBA who deserves more than to be cast as the meteor hurdling towards earth in a disaster flick, where LeBron James is the planetary centerpiece.
The Dallas Mavericks, for instance, aren't a nuisance, a nemesis or simply the team that benefitted from a puzzling no-show by the game's most talented player. They're the ones who twisted LeBron James into a question mark, and in doing so shaped themselves into an exclamation point. As in at the end of the phrase: World Champion Dallas Mavericks!
Mike Pesca, NPR News, Miami.
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