Does Dirk Nowitzki need to win an NBA Title to solidify his legacy? That is the question that was raised during ESPN's telecast of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. And, shockingly to me, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy both agreed that Dirk doesn't need a ring for his legacy (whether the fact that Jackson and Van Gundy's opinions are biased due to neither of them owning a NBA championship ring is unknown). I couldn't disagree more - Dirk Nowitzki DOES need to win an NBA title added to his resume.
There's no denying that Nowitzki is an all-time great (however, he's not among the 10 greatest players of all-time like his coach posits) who possesses the most unique package of size and skill the game has ever seen. But even among the pantheon of the game's all-time greats there is a hierarchy, and to gain access to the top floor you must possess an NBA title. Very few players can get away with not winning one (Elgin Baylor, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley) and still be considered one of the very, very best, and in my humble opinion, Dirk isn't one that can pull off that trick. Especially considering the nightmare collapse his team had in the 2006 NBA Finals, winning the first two games before dropping the next four to Miami.
If you want to praise Dirk for leading Dallas to 11 straight 50-win seasons (which he should be praised for), you also have to criticize him for not winning a title. If you are going to credit a player for leading his team to wins, you also have to discredit him for not winning the "Big One". Especially in a sport like basketball, where one player can have so much control over the destiny of his team on the court. And, while Van Gundy says Nowitzki "practices like a champion", you aren't a champion until you are, you know, a champion.
I saw that same Phil Jackson quote Udo. Phil plainly states that the '06 Finals was fixed to punish Cuban. Not sure how it could be said more plainly. Interesting that Phil's Lakers weren't given some calls against Dallas this year.
Not sure why "rings" count so much. MJ couldn't win by himself either. Does that mean MJ was the problem in the 80s when the Bulls couldn't get near a title? Or does it just mean that EVERYONE needs help?
Give Dirk credit for getting his team to the Finals with no real help. (Count Kidd as a "Hall of famer" if you want...but he's 100 years old) That's more than MJ ever did.
But of course there is no way Dirk can beat TWO Hall of Famers when they meet the Heat again this year. Naturally, that will be Dirk's fault again. Not to mention that it's not like Stern is suddenly going to let Cuban win....I'll believe that when I see it.
@mj4lifer Ok, I just skimmed the article and it is nothing like mine. Perhaps you don't know what "plagiarism" means. The idea is the same, but it's not an unique idea to begin with - people have been talking about Dirk's legacy for years. I guess the ESPN commentators (who spurred me on to write this story) got the idea from Chasing 23 too!
@mj4lifer I haven't ever even read Chasing 23, so there is no chance it's "straight plagiarism". I'll skim through it now, but I guarantee you nothing it copied from it. I'm a professional writer - I don't need to rip off other people's work.
- You stole the chapter, the picture from Nowitzki and even the whole idea behind this article from this side: http://chasing23.com/
- I don't know if Dirk is one of the best. Can't judge it. But to say that Nowitzki doesn't earn mentioning because he lost in 2006 is a weak argument. There are a lot of discussions in the internet (and even a lot of videos to show it) that this finale was fixed. Therefore I wouldn't even mention it as proof that Nowitzki isn't a champion or one of the best.
Or - as Lochpster at "chasing 23" wrote:
»It’s a shame the 2006-2007 finals are held against Dirk Nowitzki as much as they are. Remember, this was the height of Tim Donaghy’s gambling problem and he admits to gambling tens of thousands of dollars on NBA games from 2005-2007. He had been approached by the mob, but he also stated that there were “company men” who worked in the best interests of the NBA to extend series and manipulate outcomes. He told federal prosecutors that such company men had essentially decided the 2002 Western Conference finals should be extended to 7 games in the best interest of the league. This was done by giving lots of additional free throws to the favored team. To add to the intrigue, it was well known that David Stern HATED Mark Cuban, and Cuban had been unusually vocal about refereeing throughout the playoffs. Phil Jackson had this to say about that series: “That Miami Finals really was a tough one to swallow…I think Wade averaged about 25 foul shots a game. You couldn’t even touch him. That was really tough to swallow and I think [Mark Cuban] understood there’s kind of a pecking order in this league and you keep your mouth shut at times.” Tim Donaghy himself stated that there were referees that had personal vendettas against Mark Cuban. Danny Crawford brags about this. Dick Bavetta brags about being a guy who can extend series or make a certain team win. Donaghy also states that he felt many referees are probably inclined to make calls against Mark Cuban just because of the amount of trouble he causes them.
Whether it was the mob, or crooked refs looking for a buck (who would notice if huge sums were wagered on the NBA finals) or a way to stick it to Cuban, NBA higher-ups looking out for their league’s self-interest, or David Stern punishing Mark Cuban, there are lots of reasons why this seems like a ripe series for a fix. In the first two games, which Dallas won, Dallas outshot Miami by 3 free throws total. Over the next 4 games, all of which Miami won, Miami had a total of 60 more free throws than Dallas. Given that Dallas had averaged 0.6 more free throws per game than Miami, that’s just not true to form.
Dwyane Wade has averaged 9 free throws per game over his career in the regular season and playoffs, but he set an NBA finals record with 97 free throws in this 6 game series, which averages out to 16 per game. Of course, there was also the fact that Jerry Stackhouse was suspended for a game for what Shaq later referred to as being “less vicious than a love tap from my daughters,” whereas Stack’s bloody nose courtesy of Shaq in game 1 was only called a regular foul. There’s no consistency there whatsoever.
I say this because, perhaps Dirk wasn’t just soft in this series. Sure, he choked at the end of game 3 and that might have been the difference. But the Mavs really were the better team that season and were significant favorites to win even before taking a 2-0 lead. And when you say he’s never put a team on his back and taken them to the promised land, it’s hard for me to imagine what he could have possibly done to win this series.«
@UdoHoffmann Never saw that website or article until you mentioned it here, so I guess great minds think alike.
Saying Dirk lost in 2006 because of corrupt refereeing might be a bit of a stretch.
@Jeff Fox @UdoHoffmann I wouldn't say that the 2006 debacle was the result of corruption as much as it was poor officiating. I'm not a Dallas fan or a Miami fan. Truth be told, I love the Suns and think they were robbed in '07 but that's another story. Dirk choked some, but Dallas's nonexistent bench and Wade travelling, flailing, and flopping his way to the free throw line in record numbers played a much bigger role than Dirk sucking. Adrian Griffin and Diop were in the starting line up for christ sake! That makes Bibby and Anthony look like Worthy and Scott. Let's not discount the 100 plus million dollar man riding the pine after Cuban went into "We have to get bigger and tougher at all costs" mode and the fact that Dirk had a pretty good series clinching game six, despite the 7 for 25 and 5 for 16 performances thrown out by Jason "I stole my nickname from an above average guard from the 90's" Terry and Josh "THAT'S why he went 29th Draft" Howard. You will never convince me that Moses Malone or Dr. J or Jerry West or Isaiah Thomas are better players because they have rings. They were great before they won and they were great after they won. Look at what Magic did in the playoffs. If he had put 40+,10+,and 7+ in a loss while playing out of position as a rookie in the Finals, would that have made that performance any less great? What if Bird makes that three after the "Baby Hook?" Would that have made that shot any less clutch? Lebron goes for 38, 8, and 8 and hits an impossible (and lucky) game-winning three against Orlando in 09, yet he choked. If Lewis and Turkoglu don't have the series of their lives, then Lebron wins, goes to his second Finals in three years, and sees a much friendlier match up with the size oriented Lakers than the perimeter based Magic. None of this affects their actual value, so why should it affect their perceived value? I know the age-old ring chase gives sports writers some meat to chew, but I think we need to focus more on what happens in the games than what happens afterward.
@jslater0001 @Jeff Fox @UdoHoffmann It's all about winning to me - that is the only reason to play the game. And I won't consider a player one of the best of all-time unless they win a ring (except for the guys I mention in the article - Baylor, Stockton, Malone and Barkley). Dirk is a great player and it's very impressive that he's taken his team to to Finals appearances, but to become a true immortal he needs to win one.