Somewhere along the tightly contested NBA 2011 Finals, Dirk Nowitzki still remembers what happened half a decade ago. It wasn’t much about the Dallas Mavericks. It was always about him, how he succumbed to pressure and how he choked up. He fumbled and everything goes with him, losing four straight games after leading the series two games to none in 2006.
Dirk has learned his lesson the hard way. It was always about accountability. A great leader steps up when his team needs him most…
Game 5, with minutes left in the game. Miami was threatening to bolt out with Dwyane Wade’s three-point shot leaving Dallas trailing by four points. Dirk just remembered how it happened five years ago, and everything gets him going. “Just stick with me,” as he shouted during their huddle. Dirk consciously shouted what was on his mind. This would never happen again, not this time—never.
This was Dirk’s personal vendetta, his rite of passage, not only to a championship but his redemption as well. If the series goes down to determination, Dirks wants it more than ever. This seems to be his only chance with a 30-plus age bracket roster.
With the game on the line, with Miami leading the game, Dirk commanded the ball, went into the lane and got fouled, shooting both his free throws. Then seconds later Jason Terry tied the ball game with a three-point shot. Then Dirk on another possession slammed the go-ahead basket. Then it was Jason Kidd delivering a timely three.
One thing that Dirk learned from the 2006 Finals is nobody can carry a team on his own. Accountability—everybody is responsible for the team’s success. This is not going to be Dirk and the Dallas Mavericks, but Dallas as a team.
Dirk understands the game more clearly. He scores when he needs to, and he facilitates when the defense gets tighter.
One game—that’s all Dallas needs to win a championship. All those frustrations back in 2006, all the doubts and questions, will finally be answered. The boisterous crowd and the pressure will be huge in Miami. From J.J. Barea, Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd to Tyson Chandler and all the way through Brian Cardinal and to the Dallas fans. They all believe they will win that championship. “Stick with me,” as Dirk said, and they believed.
Dirk delivered Game 5, and why not a championship? That’s what great leaders do.