Resume: 21.6 points (8th in league), 6.8 rebounds, 33.5 minutes, 318 free throws made (6th in league), 46% FG, 90% FT (3rd in league) and 37% 3PT… Team record in games played: 33-29 (3-1 without)… Playoffs: 26.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 44% FG, 0-4 record… All-Star, 12th in MVP Voting, 3rd Team All-NBA
A year ago today was a very dark time in the world. On this day in 2011 the NBA players and owners were once again sitting down to attempt to end the lockout, this time with federal mediator George Cohen, who was unsuccessful in his attempt to end the NFL lockout, so naturally he’d find success with a different group of millionaires and billionaires. I remain thoroughly convinced that in some of the earlier meetings the owners and players did nothing that involved rationally ending the lockout. In my head I believe the 3 day series of meetings on October 18th to October 20th went something like this: On day one the “negotiations” began when three NBA players and three owners decided they would try to settle the lockout the good old fashioned way: Monopoly. Of course because Monopoly takes forever, they couldn’t finish the game on day one. Day two began and they re-started the game. Three hours into the “negotiations” the players realized that David Stern (the banker) was giving the owners extra money and properties so the game came to a screeching halt. The next four hours everyone sat in complete silence. Then for the rest of day two and the entirety of day three they watched the Godfather Trilogy. The end.
There was really no reason to believe that there would even be a 2011-12 season. This was particularly unfortunate for me, a LeBron James fan, because LeBron was coming off an NBA Finals meltdown that was tragically overshadowing a much bigger story. What had happened a few months prior was Dirk Nowitzki throwing his name in the discussion for 2nd greatest power forward of all-time after delivering a legacy defining run through the postseason where he not only defeated, but outplayed Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Not an easy feat, but Dirk pulled it off and made a legitimate case that he was the best basketball player in the world, even if nobody really cared too much about it.
If anything, the NBA lockout hurt Dirk’s cause. The extra two months of offseason should’ve given us a little bit longer to discuss what he did in the playoffs, but instead too much of it was being spent discussing LeBron choking, the lockout itself, the Chris Paul trade debacle, and everything else negative.
Dirk showed up for the season out of shape, Mark Cuban decimated the Mavericks in an attempt to
clear cap space, and the Mavericks never really had a chance to compete for a Championship last season. The Mavericks didn’t even get to enjoy raising the championship banner since the Heat decimated them in Dallas on Christmas day. Suddenly everyone had completely forgotten about Dirk and the Mavericks all over again. The playoffs came, Dallas got swept in the first round and LeBron put together a much more dominant run through the postseason than Dirk did in 2011. The media talked about it for weeks, leaving me to ask the question, where was all of Dirk’s praise?
You could make the case that Dirk will be the forgotten star of his era. Because of the emphasis on endorsements, super teams, personalities and winning multiple titles, there is a decent chance that Dirk is going to be lost in the shuffle of all of the late 90’s/00’s stars when their era is over. Since the Mavericks seemingly don’t have a roster that can compete for a title, these next few years we can’t just forget about Dirk when he is still around. We should appreciate the brilliance of a 7’0 power footer who can score the ball with incredible ease in the same ways a shooting guard and a center would. He’s the closest thing we’ve seen to Larry Bird since Larry Bird, and perhaps the greatest international player in basketball history. For two months in 2011 Dirk outplayed everyone else in the NBA, and even with an offseason that was extended by an extra two months, he wasn’t talked about enough.