One of the most highly anticipated teams was on one of the most highly anticipated stages and ready to win it all. There was just one problem, Dirk Werner Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks.
Of course, this was the 2011 NBA Finals were LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were in their inaugural season as the "Heatles." After winning the first game of the series, the Heat were up double-digits in the 4th Quarter of game 2.
What happened next, single-handedly cemented Nowitzki as one of the greatest Finals performers of all-time.
Nowitzki would lead the charge and hit the game-winner en route to winning 4 of the next 5 games and the first NBA Championship in Dallas Mavericks history. The Mavericks were, of course, serving a little revenge to the Heat who had beaten them 5 years earlier when Nowitzki and Wade made their Finals debut.
Nowtizki had reached the mountaintop, only to see his title dreams slip away. The following season was no better as the Mavericks became the first 1-seed to fall to an 8-seed as Baron Davis and the Warriors took down the reigning Western Conference Champs in shocking fashion. Fortunately, Davis gave us one of the most electrifying dunks in playoff history and always worth a watch when the opportunity arises.
Nowitzki's athletic journey involved a court and a net, but not a basketball. Nowitzki was actually a nationally ranked tennis player back in Germany. Tennis is still something the 2011 NBA Finals MVP takes part in noting "it's fun and good for the footwork in the offseason." Footwork has always been an unofficial trademark of Nowitzki's game, and now the Mavericks have taken a step to file an official trademark on behalf of another international star, Luka Doncic.
Dallas recently has filed a trademark for the moniker "Matador" to promote their young star. While it remains unclear what nickname Luka will ultimately don, the comparison to Dirk is high praise for someone who seems to be able to live up to the bill.
As teammates, we likely won't see the two matchup in any formal game, however, that doesn't stop everyone from wondering who's got more game, not even the German-native himself. When speaking about a potential matchup, Dirk said "[Luka's] got a lot of moves in the one-on-one games. He's got a lot of shots in his repertoire. I'd probably go with him now. But back in the days? No chance, no chance."
It's nice to see Dirk still have his edge and only note that Doncic would "probably" win. Doncic, 19, hails from Slovenia and has the ability to light up the court similar to the late Dragan Petrovic.
Doncic has already made a name for himself thanks to Real Madrid's recent title in Euroleague where he brought home Euroleague MVP honors. Due to the professional experience and success abroad, the decision for Luka to come to the NBA was not an obvious one. Luka's also not the only athlete in his family and not the only one who's been in the spotlight. Doncic's mother is a former athlete who ran hurdles.
MORE: A running diary of Luka Doncic's rookie season
Doncic appears to be the next star to make waves in his family and has already turned heads in the NBA, but the Mavericks may be shaping up to be the biggest winners of all. Similar to how the Celtics went from Bill Russell to John Havlicek, how the Lakers went from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Magic Johnson, and how the Spurs went from David Robinson to Tim Duncan, Dallas may be able to transition from one star to another in seamless fashion.
The Mavericks faithful have come a long way from the skepticism during Dirk faced in the 1998 Draft when the Mavericks traded for the surefire Hall of Famer. It's almost fitting that there was a fair amount of skepticism when the Mavericks traded for Doncic during the recent 2018 draft.
It's anyone's guess on how many times we'll hear an announcer shout "Dirk to Doncic" (or vice-versa for that matter), but the city of Dallas sure knows how to pick their European imports.