For Dirk Nowitzki, the resume is complete. He's an NBA champion.
Avenging what happened five years ago in perfect turnabout style, the Dallas Mavericks won their first NBA title by winning Game 6 of these finals in Miami 105-95 on Sunday night -- celebrating on the Heat's home floor, just as Dwyane Wade and his team did to them in the 2006 title series. The Mavericks won four of the series' last five games, a turnabout that could not have been sweeter.
"I really still can't believe it," said Nowitzki, who had 21 points and took home finals MVP honors.
"Tonight," Jason Terry said, "we got vindication."
"We worked so hard and so long for it," Nowitzki said. "The team has had an unbelievable ride."
"It goes without saying," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "You're never really prepared for a moment like this. ... Neither team deserved this championship more than the other, but Dallas earned it."
"Mavs NEVER stopped & now entire franchise gets rings," Gilbert wrote. "Old Lesson for all: There are NO SHORTCUTS. NONE."
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle joined a highly elite group, those with NBA titles as both a player and a head coach. Only 10 other men are on that list, including the presumably retired-for-good Phil Jackson, one of Carlisle's mentors in K.C. Jones, and Heat President Pat Riley -- who led Miami past Dallas in 2006, and was the mastermind of what the Heat did last summer by getting James, Wade and Bosh on the same team with an eye on becoming a dynasty.
"This is a true team," Carlisle said. "This is an old bunch. We don't run fast or jump high. These guys had each other's backs. We played the right way. We trusted the pass. This is a phenomenal thing for the city of Dallas."
Hating the Heat became the NBA's craze this season, and the team knew it had no shortage of critics, everyone from Cleveland (where "Cavs for Mavs" shirts were popular during these finals) to Chicago (the city James and Wade both flirted with last summer) and just about every place in between lining up to take shots at Miami.
Given their newfound popularity, meet the new America's Team.
Sorry, Cowboys -- your long-held moniker might have to be ceded to your city's NBA club. When it was over, Mavs owner Mark Cuban ran onto the court to hug Carlisle, then punched the air and whooped.
Jason Kidd, at 38 years old, got his first championship. Nowitzki got his at 32, Terry at 33. They were featured on the video screen in their building in Dallas during this series on what seemed like a constant loop, each posing with the NBA trophy and looking longingly at it, standing mere inches from it, as if to say "so close, yet so far away."
Nowitzki sealed it with 2:27 left, hitting a jumper near the Miami bench to put Dallas up 99-89, and some fans actually began leaving. Nowitzki walked to the Mavs' side slowly, right fist clenched and aloft.
He knew it. Everyone did. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra implored his team to foul in the final minute, and even then, they couldn't catch the Mavericks.
"All those unique individual stories is what propelled us to this victory," Terry said.
Nowitzki finished 9 for 27, and the Mavs still won. He was 1 for 12 in the first half, and they were still ahead, 53-51, thanks largely to Terry's 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting.
"Was he unbelievable tonight or what?" marveled Nowitzki.
Down the stretch, Terry made another contribution. He grabbed Nowitzki during a time-out, telling him, "Remember '06." The final minutes belonged to Dirk and the Mavs, and a few German flags waved in Miami's arena during the postgame celebration.
"This feeling, to be on the best team in the world, it's just undescribable," Nowitzki said.
"I can't believe the journey," said Kidd, who lost two previous finals trips with the New Jersey Nets. "The journey, the character of my teammates telling me they wanted to get me a championship. Tonight they came out and played well. I came here twice, this being my third time so third time was the lucky charm."
Of the principal characters from the 2006 series, only Cuban, Nowitzki and Terry remain from the Mavericks' side, and for them, the beginning of this championship celebration seemed sweeter than even they could have imagined. Terry won't have to get his tattoo -- the one of the NBA championship trophy -- removed, which he vowed to have done if Miami won this series. Nowitzki will never be in the conversation of 'Best player without a title' again.
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