Let me explain my family’s love affair with the Dallas Mavericks.

When Kim and I married in 1988, one of our shared interests was NBA basketball.  She was a fervent Celtics and Larry Bird fan, but we also loved watching the game’s other superstars like Magic, Kareem, Olajuwon, Barkley, Isaiah, Dominique, Jordan, Stockton, and Malone.  The playoffs always provided more than sufficient entertainment for us.

We didn’t live in a market that had a team, but we took opportunities to see exhibition games when we could.  We saw the Hawks and Rockets play in Nashville one year.  Then, during the time that we lived in Hawaii, we got to see the Lakers a few times.  They held their training camp on Maui and would play a couple of preseason games at Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu each year before heading back to L.A.

Then, in March of 1997, we moved to the Dallas suburb of Carrollton.  We immediately adopted the Mavericks as “our team.” For those who don’t remember or never knew, let me remind you where the Mavs were as a team in the late ‘90s.  They had just completed a decade in which they were the worst team in professional sports, i.e., they had the worst winning percentage of any team in the NBA, NFL, NHL, and Major League Baseball.

Just before our arrival in Dallas, the Three J’s (Jason Kidd, Jamal Mashburn, & Jim Jackson) had been sent packing in trades with Phoenix, Miami, and New Jersey.  Don Nelson had just become the general manager of the team and would soon take over the coaching responsibilities.  The line-up included Derek Harper, Michael Finley, A.C. Green, Shawn Bradley, Samaki Walker, Kurt Thomas, Sasha Danilovic, Martin Muursepp, Robert Pack, and a few others.

On April 10, 1997, Kim and I attended our first Mavericks game at Reunion Arena.  I can’t tell you how excited we were.  Never mind that the Mavs lost to a Seattle Sonics team loaded with players like Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Detlef Schrempf (former Mav), Sam Perkins (former Mav), Terry Cummings, and Nate McMillan.  The Mavs finished the season 24-58.  We didn’t care.  They were our team!

On November 20 of that year, Hannah (age 7) and I went to Reunion and watched A.C. Green break the NBA’s Iron Man record, playing in his 907th consecutive game (his streak finally stopped at 1,192).  Kim was with Coleman at NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, at the time.  In the concourse before the game, Hannah started talking with a woman who turned out to be Kurt Thomas’ step-mother.  That encounter blossomed into a special friendship that the two of them kept up for several years.

Nelson swung a deal on Draft Day in 1998 that landed a lanky, 19 year-old German kid named Dirk Nowitzki.  Big Nellie also nabbed a feisty, young point guard named Steve Nash in a trade with Phoenix that day.  Both players got off to slow starts as Mavericks.  Both ultimately became league MVPs. 

Change was in the air.  Mark Cuban bought the team in January of 2000.  There was the Big Three of Nowitzki, Nash, and Finley.  There was the move from the cozy confines of Reunion Arena to the new, palatial American Airlines Center.  Not all of the moves were brilliant ones.  Remember the short-lived Dennis Rodman experiment?

Many players came and went over the next several years, far too many to list here.  We loved the grit and hustle of guys like Erick Strickland, Greg Buckner, and Eduardo Najera.  They had the same fearless, “leave it all on the floor” quality possessed by J.J. Barea.  We hated it when Nash got away.  Dirk just kept getting better and better.  Jason Terry joined the team.  Kidd ultimately returned.  Nellie was gone; Avery took us to the Finals in ’06; then it was Carlisle’s turn.

We attended games when we could and watched the rest on television.  Sometimes we would get nosebleed “Family Night” seats and all four of us would go.  One night we were literally on the top row, backs against the arena wall.  Coleman laughed every time a whistle blew.  Sometimes Kim and I would have the blessing of being the guest of friends who had corporate seats in the lower bowl.  Sweet!

One year I paid for Kim and Hannah to participate in a Mavericks program called NBA 101 for Women, in which they got to interact with players, coaches, training staff, and got to tour the AAC, locker room included.  They thanked me a lot for that one.

This post has gone on way longer than I intended; just too many great memories to share.

But, I wanted you to know why Kim, Hannah, and I are still a little hoarse from yelling and screaming on Sunday night as the Mavericks won their first NBA Championship.  I think Coleman’s fingers are even a little sore from signing “basketball” and “whistle” hundreds of times throughout the playoffs.  The Mavericks are truly a “family passion” for us.

Congratulations, Dirk and Mavs!  You have made us proud.  It was well worth the 14-year wait!

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