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Dirk's Paid His Dues, Give Him a Ring

I've always fought against him. The long hair, the fall-away one-footed jumper, the scowl. Dirk Nowitzki has never given me a reason to like him. Despite the fact that he has been dominant in the league since he stepped on the court, has never run into any trouble off the court, and never had any issues with the Blazers, I grew up loving to root against Dirk.

He was the anti-clutch. He couldn't carry a team out of the 2nd round of the playoffs. When he finally did and the Mavericks made it to the NBA 2006 Finals, I cheered as a young Dwyane Wade was gift wrapped the finals by David Stern and Stu Jackson. Then the following year, with a chip on his shoulder, Dirk led the Mavericks to the best record in the NBA, capturing the overall number one seed as he was named the league MVP. The Mavericks subsequently became the first #1 seed to lose to a #8 seed in a seven game series. Dirk further confirmed his inability to show up in momentous games.

2008: first round exit.

2009: second round exit.

2010: first round exit as #2 seed.

Dirk's championship window appeared to be closing. A veteran point guard, Jason Kidd, and an athletic, scoring wing, Caron Butler, were his last hopes for a title run. Butler went down early in the season to an ACL tear and the Mavs were hot and cold as they clinched the number three seed despite a hot start. Most analysts put their chances at 50-50 to make it out of the first round against the Blazers.

But somewhere in the back of Dirk's mind, a switch clicked. Tired of the doubters, the critics, and the non-believers, he began destroying every defender he encountered. The Blazers attempted to put a smaller Gerald Wallace and Nicolas Batum on him, he simply took them to the low post and brutalized them. When a bigger and longer Marcus Camby and Lamarcus Aldridge took their turn on him, Dirk drew them out, took to hard dribbles, pumped faked and drilled jumper after jumper.

This trend continued through the second round as the Mavericks steamrolled the defending champion Lakers. The series was never even close as Dirk led the Mavs to a level they hadn't seen since 2006. But after that there were questions lingering. How would Dirk shake off the cobwebs from their long rest? Could he handle a long and strong defender like Ibaka? What about when the Thunder gave Ibaka a rest and put a serviceable Nick Collison on him?

Dirk shut the critics up with arguably the greatest offensive performance in playoff history in terms of efficiency. Scoring 48 points on fifteen shots, including a playoff record twenty-four made free throws with no misses, Dirk pushed his game to a level that the NBA had never seen him at. When the Thunder threw double teams at him, he punished them with ball movement. He rebounded the ball with impunity and missed only two free throws the entire series.

Dirk Nowitzki could have rolled over and died. After the NBA heisted the 2006 NBA Finals from him, Dirk suffered through three more difficult seasons with two coaches and a revolving door of players. At age 32, Dirk should have been on his way out of the league. But Dirk's game has continued to evolve, crafting an arsenal of jumpers that boarders on impossible to guard.

I still don't like Dirk, but there is not a single player in the league that deserves a ring more than he does. He's loyal and an incredibly hard worker. The man suffered through years of criticism and proved himself capable of coming out the other side successfully. Now Dirk will have the chance to exact revenge against the team that stole his 2006 title. And while I don't like him, I respect him immensely. And there is no single player in the league, not on the Blazers, that I would rather see win a title.


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Caron Butler's ACL tear is career threatening. Not many people know that. I'm glad that he is recovering.

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