Reflections on a Rival: The Dallas Mavericks


I was sitting on a couch in “the SoCos,” a housing complex at Vassar College, with my friends Erik and Eric, neither of whom are big basketball fans. They seemed a bit startled by the levels of my emotion: Make no mistake, I’ve always been an excitable guy but in this instance I seemed unexpectedly invested. In fact, I was not merely invested, I was downright prescient. Every time I said we needed a big shot, one seemed to pass through the net. Every time I mumbled something about not fouling, a foul quickly followed.

There I sat as my exuberance became frustration and my frustration became helplessness. There I sat as I watched the San Antonio Spurs lose to the Dallas Mavericks in overtime of game 7 of the 2006 Western Conference Semi-Finals.

For me, the Mavericks have never been like other rivals, even before they really were our rivals. For years they felt more like a kid brother. Growing up in Austin, the two cities I traveled to most often to see professional sports were San Antonio and Dallas. I was never a Mavs fan but I’ve rooted for them on more than a few occasions. Everybody roots for their little brother while quietly reminding themselves that they can still take him in one-on-one. While the Mavs were under the leadership of Don Nelson, this was fundamentally my attitude. Although Nellie put together an offensive freak show, I have never been threatened by teams that forget there are two ends of the floor. But, like all little brothers, one day the Mavs grew up.

Even as our division opponent blossomed into a true “rival,” a familial sense still hung in the air. Michael Finley now donned the silver and black. Avery Johnson stalked the opposing sidelines. As the two franchises became increasingly competitive they became increasingly intertwined as well.

In a lot of ways that familial sense has passed. Finley’s contributions are far more peripheral than they once were. Avery is no longer their coach. And, after the Harris-Kidd trade, it seemed inevitable that the Mavs would slide to the back of the playoff pack. Although I should be happy that we have one less obstacle on our path to another championship, something about the current state of the Mavs leaves me ambivalent. Our kid brother threw the last punch and we never got a chance to get back in the ring with him. We have beaten the Mavs in 4 out of our last 5 meetings but regular season victories can only make up for so much.

The game starts at 8:30 eastern/7:30 Central. Go Spurs.

Further Reading:

48 Minutes of Hell: Match-Up of the Night: Duncan vs. Nowitzki; The Notebook: Anatomy of an Overtime.

Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: No Game Is an Island: The Long and Winding Road.

  • Nico

    I completely understand where you’re coming from. Growing up in Lubbock, where everyone is a Mavs fan, this was always such a special rivalry for my friends and I. Those days really have passed, and it always pains me to think how much of a better match up we would have been for Miami… how we could have had a 3-peat and shut everyone up.

    The Mavs under Avery developed into a formidable opponent, but I think they taught Pop a good lesson that he carried into 2007: Don’t let them beat you at your own game.

    Great post.

  • Jimbo

    I like the Mavs but only because of Mark Cuban. I think Cuban is the ideal owner – surely he’s meddlesome, BUT he’s extremely committed to his team is very passionate about it, is willing to do what it takes to make it better (including taking on onerous contracts) and doesn’t give a crap about what David Stern or anyone else thinks – this you’ve got to respect!

    Look forward to the Spurs beatin’ down on the lil bro.

  • gospurs44

    my 2 favorite teams. The Spurs and whoever the Mavericks are playing! Go Spurs!!

  • ChillFAN

    Sometimes, your bully disappears on you. Would like to see Spurs Rockets again, and I’d have liked for Robinson to have beat the Jazz.

    Mavs had the pieces, not the luck. Dirk gets his nosr broken, favorable calls for Wade who catches fire, and Golden State hits every 3 on them, and Kidd deal goes flat, gets costly, now he can’t stay in front of anyone. What I like about Cuban, is he’s a fan of the league, probably knows more about it’s players than most assistant coaches.

    Who matches up best v. Spurs? LA, Jazz, Mavs, Rockets, then Hornets is my order.

    I honestly think tonight was the first night finley eager showed up to a spurs mavs game.

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