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In Dirk Nowitzki’s moment

Jun 13, 2011, 3:41 AM EDT

Screen shot 2011-06-13 at 2.34.22 AM

Dirk Nowitzki will never hear the end of the question. In the ensuing days, weeks, months, and even years, he’ll be posed the same inquiry over and over, so many times that his answer will grow repetitive but never robotic. The very thought will always invoke the same emotion he felt on this night, this perfect June evening in Miami, when the work and the effort and the torment and the perseverance all manifested itself into something undeniably beautiful.

“Dirk, what does it feel like to finally win an NBA title?

Innumerable media members, friends, family members, former teammates, and strangers alike will pose that question to Nowitzki. Just as many columnists will discuss what this day means for Dirk’s legacy, and to Nowitzki as both a player and concept. But nothing will ever properly capture Nowitzki’s night. Those columns will ring with empty assumptions, even from those who know Dirk best. The water cooler discussions will touch on Nowitzki’s strife without fully understanding its depth or impact. Even Nowitzki’s quotes will come up short, as the one-time league MVP and now-time Finals MVP will undoubtedly struggle to put this moment into words. It’s no slight against Nowitzki, who is as well-spoken and charismatic as professional ballplayers come; these events, placed atop a mountain by context and history, just aren’t accessible within the simplicities of language.

Nothing, save for those sensory images that have been immortalized in Nowitzki’s mind, will ever do this perfect June evening in Miami justice. But we’ll keep asking. We’ll keep asking because we’ll all try desperately to get there — to that place where one of the NBA’s most tortured stars was finally able to find his serenity. We’ll keep asking Nowitzki, over, and over, and over, in the hopes that one day his slight smile will bring us just a bit closer to what he felt the night he reached the pinnacle.

These are the stories that we, as human beings, want to reach out and touch. So few realms offer the dramatic flair of professional sport, and great though our own lives may be, there’s a reason why we tune in to see Nowitzki and his Dallas Mavericks pull off an improbable run to the NBA title: the emotion of these stolen moments is absolutely intoxicating. It provides a vicarious high unlike most anything else on this planet, even if we are only offered the smallest glimpse into the life, mind, and heart of a jubilant victor. We know in our heart of hearts that there’s no all-access pass into Nowitzki’s experiences, regardless of how many times he answers the same question. But even knowing that fact shouldn’t stop anyone from asking, nor will it. Nowitzki’s journey has been so exceptionally riveting that, frankly, we’d be crazy not to crave its finale. We all want to dig our hands deep into that catharsis and let Nowitzki’s elation wash over us, so much so that even the harsh limitations of reality won’t prevent us from trying.

Once the celebration on the floor had concluded, an endless mass of media members stood in line outside of the Mavericks’ locker room. Some held cameras and others clutched recorders, but even these sacred record-keepers stood waiting for more than transcription fodder. They wanted to cross the threshold into a space that unquestionably belonged to Nowitzki and his teammates; the temporary home of NBA champions. They wanted to see a star with tears in his eyes, to hear the unbridled celebrations of a team victorious, to smell an entire world doused in champagne.

This is why we watch. It’s why we love this game and its players. It’s why we invite basketball into our homes and our families, and invest our hard-earned dollars in a league that will break a player like Nowitzki down for over a decade, only to finally offer him that which he has for so long deserved. The NBA theater is certainly grand, but the draw isn’t to watch absurdity unfold from an auditorium seat. We ache for the ability to understand — to comprehend the magnitude of this perfect June evening in Miami, and what it meant to the distant but familiar protagonist of a career-long narrative.

We’ll gather up the champagne bottles, parse through archives filled with photos, and pose to Dirk the same question that he’s already been asked oh so many times. Yet there is an inescapable truth laced throughout those fragments, beckoning us to savor that which we’ve collected while never being satiated:

The only thing that we truly want is more.

  1. bittersonicsfan - Jun 13, 2011 at 5:42 AM

    I can’t wait to listen to Miami sports shows tomorrow. I want to here them try to rationalize the beat down they were served. Dan LeBatard rockin a speedo on South Beach! Behold “Miami’s voice” in all of his sweaty glory!

  2. tejano2k - Jun 13, 2011 at 6:08 AM

    All due respect and congrats to Dirk. He’s a class act regardless of what team you pull for. He and the Mavs gained my respect, and probably that of many others, after sweeping out my beloved Lakers. Savor the moment, Dirk. You and the rest of the Mavs organization deserve it.

  3. polegojim - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:22 AM

    Very happy for the Mavs – but what happened to Dirk immediately following the buzzer? What’s up with the sprint straight into the lockeroom-no celebrating with the team, no sportsmanship for the Heat?
    It’s not like him and just strange.

    That said – I couldn’t be happier. I hate seeing teams try to buy a championship. After watching the Marlins do it, then prompltly dismantle the same team, I hope that type of effort produces a loser every time.

    Teams like Dallas who train, build, persevere, and fight deserve every trophy they earn. No Shortcuts is right.

    • mella21 - Jun 13, 2011 at 7:24 PM

      He was clearly overwhelmed with emotion-reminded me a bit of Jordan’s breakdown back in the day. Chris Bosh is getting killed on some websites for falling to the ground in tears and Dampier having to hold him around the waist as they walked. lol, I think Dirk was just as emotional (for other reasons) but it wasn’t in his nature or culture, to let go like that infront of millions of viewers.

      This article hit it on the head…we desperately want to be a part of that elusive ‘moment’ and feel it with them. Dirk’s reaction says more to me about how he is feeling and about how much ’06 affected him than ANY words.

      But one thing I disagree with-EVERY team buys a championship. They don’t play for free and they all have a salary cap, no?

  4. lucky5934 - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:54 AM

    Dirk later said he was extremely overwhelmed and need a few minutes to let out some emotion privately and collect himself. I also am happy to see the Mavs win. So many of their players/coaches have gone over a decade in the league without winning a championship.

  5. dwoofer - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    As a fan who used to care about the Suns, CONGRATULATIONS to The Matrix !!! Very happy for Shawn Marion. He was my favorite Sun. People didn’t realize this at the time, but as Shawn Marion went, so went the Suns. Let’s see: Suns management traded away two of the five players who were on the Mavs champion team. Brilliant !!

  6. rickb56 - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    Congrats Dirk….Long time in coming…and you got the results you wanted..and now…you’re the “best in the business”..

    Nice job…been a fan of yours for a long time…Glad to see you get a ring…

    Enjoy being…The Best….

  7. southbeachtalent - Jun 13, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    Congrats to Dirk, Kidd, and the Matrix they all deserved it. Truth is if the Heat weren’t their oponents I’d be quite happy for them. Dirk is truly one of the greats.

  8. mastermaxima - Jun 13, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    I liked his words
    As a fan I would like to understand the thoughts of happiness
    Nowitzki experiment.
    You are not wrong in the future I will want much more of our Nowitzki

  9. johnnyblaze518 - Jun 13, 2011 at 2:51 PM

    @polegojim….dirk shouldn’t have to show the heat sportsmanship or respect..Dwayne Wade and Lebron James mocked him and showed him no respect… It goes back to 2006 when Dwayne Wade said in a press conference that Dirk didn’t show up and knock down big I think nowitski did what he should have done didn’t shake their hands then came back out to celebrate …GO MAVS…..

    • damp1015 - Jun 14, 2011 at 9:59 AM

      Dirk still didn’t win Game 5 or 6, to be honest it was the rest of the Mavs, especiallys T

      • damp1015 - Jun 14, 2011 at 9:59 AM

        My bad, cut me off.

        Especially Terry and Barrea.

  10. dnbajunkie - Jun 14, 2011 at 1:35 AM

    Dirk Nowitzki reminds me of a younger version of Tim Duncan, not flashy but a very solid & efficient basketball player. Also a class act, mild mannered and great demeanor. Congratulations to Dirk & the Mavs, hope to see again in the 2012 finals!!! Hope there’s no lock out.

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