In what was arguably the most competitive & exciting NBA Finals series since the Boston-LA era of the 80's, the Miami Heat emerged victorious over the Dallas Mavericks in game six, 95-92, to win their first, ever championship. Ironically, the Mavericks, led by Coach of the Year, Avery Johnson, had never lost four games in a row this year. Coach Pat Riley, the team's general manager who took over from Stan Van Gundy early in the season, said it best after the team's momentous triumph, "it was our time."
The MVP of the NBA Finals was Heat guard Dwayne Wade, who emerged as a bonafide superstar. Wade averaged over 34 points during the series, third best among players in their first NBA final, behind Rick Barry & Allen Iverson, but ahead of hall of famers Michael Jordan & Jerry West. In his usual humble manner, upon receiving the trophy, he dedicated it to his coaches, teammates & family. Wade, in just his third year with the Heat, was encouraged by another young superstar, LeBron James, after Dallas won the first two games in Dallas rather convincingly. What advice did King James impart? He simply said, "be aggressive, drive to the basket, get to the line & play your game."
Heat center Shaquille O'Neal, who came to Miami in a trade involving several players, was the first to pull the 24 year-old Chi-town native, take him under his wing & set the stage for what has become a changing of the guard between a seasoned veteran & mature youngster. O'Neal has three rings from his three-peat success in LA. He told Wade he expected nothing less than another championship ring or two from the tandem. When O'Neal was not in foul trouble, he was effective. But it was their supporting cast & bench who carried them through adversity.
Starters Udonis Haslem, Antoine Walker & Jayson Williams were steady throughout the series. Alonzo Mourning, Gary Payton & James Posey were magnificent off the bench, particularly in the final game, when they rallied from 13 down in the second quarter to take a 49-48 lead into the locker room at halftime in a hostile Dallas environment. In the late 80's, the bad boys of Detroit taught us defense wins championhips. Zoe finished with five blocks & six rebounds, Posey's defense of MVP candidate Dirk Nowitzki was outstanding & Payton matched the Dallas guards' intensity when he was on the court.
Riley, affectionately known by his players as 'Riles' spoke highly of "the 15 strong on this team." In fact, in a move which paralelled his '88 title defense as LA head coach, on June 8 he told his team they'd be victorious on June 20: the date they clinched the title. No one expected Miami to get past 2004 NBA Champions & last year's finalist Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference series. But as Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich poignantly remarked after his team - defeating a, then, young Shaq's Orlando Magic squad - repeated in 1995, "never underestimate the heart of a champion."
I enjoyed every game of the finals series. Dallas, severely hampered in game five due to a controversial suspension of Jerry Stackhouse when he gave a hard foul to Shaq in game four, played the opening quarter of game six the way they did the first two games. They passed efficiently, ran when they had an edge, spaced the floor & tore the roof off with their blistering shooting pace. Nowitzki & Terry were big in the first quarter, hitting from all parts of the court, giving Miami little time to set up their excellent team defensive strategies.
As Payton, Posey & Zoe entered the game in the second quarter, those easy shots became harder to fall because the Mavericks' players were looking at fresh feet, long arms & outsretched hands. One of the themes of the series was the many times both teams would go on runs of ten, or twelve unanswered points, only to have a time out stop their flow. Both coaches made adjustments as the game resembled a chess match of athletic ability & tenacious teamwork. In the end, it was the resillience of the Heat, whose uncanny combination of fiery youngsters & mature veterans hit clutch free throws, forced turnovers & induced Nowitzki to a woeful fourth quarter shooting percentage.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.