June 2021 marked the 10th anniversary of the Dallas Mavericks 2011 NBA Championship. In my completely unbiased opinion – ok, maybe I’m a little biased – it’s one of the greatest Playoff runs in NBA history. The Mavericks faced tough opponents, made several historic comebacks, overcame their own Playoff demons, and solidified an all-time great’s legacy. All in two months.
Yeah, it was pretty amazing.
There were so many great moments from that run and so many great stories. I compiled ten of the greatest moments, but there are more. Celebrate each moment with me as I walk down memory lane.
10. Shawn Marion Blocks Kevin Durant’s Potential Game-Winning Shot in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals
The Oklahoma City Thunder had the best young core in the league in 2011 (not to mention three future MVPs) with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. Many analysts picked the Thunder to beat the Mavs.
After falling behind 2-1 in the series, the Thunder had a chance to tie the series in a crucial Game 4. Actually, they had more than a chance. They had a shot.
With 5.9 seconds left in a tie game, Kevin Durant broke free for a potential game-winning three-pointer. But Shawn Marion’s legendary defense was up to the task. He blocked Durant’s shot attempt, sending the game into Overtime, where the Mavs got the victory.
9. Game 6 Series-Clinching Win vs. Portland Trail Blazers in Western Conference First Round
I know, a first-round series win doesn’t seem like a big deal when you’re talking about winning a Championship. However, the Mavericks’ first-round matchup versus the Portland Trail Blazers was one of the toughest of their Playoff run.
The Blazers were tough, physical, and deep. After a crushing defeat in Game 4 that allowed the Blazers to tie the series – and Brandon Roy to have a heck of a farewell tour – it seemed like the Mavs’ Playoff demons just wouldn’t leave them alone.
So, yeah, winning this series was huge. They got out of the first round for just the second time in five attempts, they overcame a crushing blow, and defeated a tough and gritty opponent. It was just the beginning, but at the time it felt like the biggest victory in decades.
8. 16-point Comeback vs. Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals
If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. The Lakers were considered one of the best. They seemed destined to three-peat. With a squad of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom, the Mavericks didn’t seem to have the talent to compete.
After building a 16-point lead in Game 1 of the series, it looked like history was on the Lakers’ side. But then the Mavericks’ hero showed up.
Yup, Dir- or, I mean, Corey Brewer, sparked a comeback that led to a victory for the Mavs. He guarded Kobe Bryant, grabbed a couple of loose balls, and hit crucial shots during the Mavericks’ comeback.
If Mavs fans thought this would be the most exciting moment of the series, boy were we in for a surprise.
7. Dirk Nowitzki Sets the Record for Consecutive Free Throws Made in a Playoff Game in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals
In Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, Dirk Nowitzki set a tone. He had one of the most efficient scoring games you’ll ever see.
Most notably, he made 24 consecutive free throws, setting the record. But he also made 12 of his 15 field goals. That means out of the 39 shots he took in the game, he missed only 3 of them.
The Thunder’s best defense was the towel boys trying to ice Dirk while he was at the free throw line.
(It didn’t work.)
6. 15-Point Fourth Quarter Comeback in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals
The Mavericks’ Championship run was full of amazing comebacks. One of the most impressive was their 15-point comeback with only five minutes left in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. In fact, the window for their comeback was so tight that the Mavs never actually took the lead until the overtime period.
With Dallas leading the series 2-1, Game 4 was crucial for OKC. Kevin Durant hit a 3-point dagger to put the Thunder up by 15 points with 5:06 left in the game. In those final 5 minutes and Overtime, Dirk scored 14 points, finishing with 40 for the game.
The Mavericks won the game and ended the series a few days later.
5. Western Conference Semifinals Sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers (Mother’s Day Massacre)
I’ll be honest, I expected the Lakers to win this series. They had just won back-to-back Championships and they had one of the greatest players ever and one of the greatest coaches ever. Plus, well, they were the Lakers!
Even after going down 0-3, there wasn’t a resounding feeling of doubt from the Lakers or their fans. Kobe Bryant said he still thought they would win the series. Heck, even I thought that if any team could come back from down 0-3, it would be the Lakers.
I don’t think I fully understood that Mavericks team until Game 4.
In the final game of the series, the Mavericks hit a record-tying 20 three-pointers and put the league on notice with a 122-86 win that completed a sweep of the back-to-back defending Champions. As Kobe put it, “They just made three after three after three.” It was an offensive clinic and an exhilarating moment for every Mavs fan.
4. Dirk Nowitzki Plays With Flu-Like Symptoms in Game 4 of the Finals
After a historic comeback in Game 2 of the Finals (we’ll get to that in a minute), the Mavericks lost a crucial Game 3. With a 2-1 series lead, the Miami Heat seemed to be inevitable. It started to look like their Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh was just too much for the Mavs.
To make matters worse, it was discovered that Dirk was playing Game 4 with a fever up to 102 degrees. But greatness can’t be stopped.
Dirk mustered all of the energy and strength he could and put the Mavericks on his back once again. He scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. With 15 seconds left in the game and 1 point separating the two teams, Dirk made a driving layup to give the Mavericks the lead. Game 4 was in the books, and the Mavericks were now on their way to history.
3. Fourth Quarter Comeback In NBA Finals Game 2
In series after series, the Mavericks showed incredible grit and toughness. But against the Miami Heat, the team seemed to be intimidated. After losing Game 1 of the Finals, Game 2 was crucial. But it wasn’t going well.
With 7:14 left in the game, Dwyane Wade hit a crushing 3-pointer that put the Heat up by 15 points.
But the game wasn’t over.
The Mavericks dug deep as a team. They fought with all of their collective strength and went on a 22-5 run. Dirk sealed the historical moment with a game-winning layup over Chris Bosh.
2. Dirk Nowitzki Wins Finals MVP
Dallas fans knew Dirk’s greatness for years before this Championship, but the world had come to doubt him. He was derided, pushed aside and put below lesser talent in the minds of pundits, fans, and even history itself. There was only one thing he could do to cement his legacy where it belonged.
Dirk had an all-time great Playoff run in 2011. Winning an NBA title and being the clear Finals MVP finally made everyone see how great he really was. This Finals MVP was never in doubt. There was no speculation, no surprise winner, no secondary star or defender that could steal the shine. It was Dirk. He earned every bit of that trophy.
1. NBA Finals Game 6 (The Part Where They Won a Championship)
The series could have gone seven games, but there was a vibe heading into Game 6. After a back-and-forth start to the series, the Mavericks exerted their supremacy in games four and five. When they entered the arena for Game 6, black suits and all, there was a silent confidence exuding from every dribble, every pass, and every shot.
There are so many great micro-moments from this game – Jason Terry’s epic performance, Dirk leaving the arena to spill his emotions in private, Holger Geschwindner on the verge of tears as his prized pupil finally achieved his greatest career goal, original owner Don Carter lifting the Larry O’Brien trophy, and so many more.
Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks were finally Champions. Forever.
Want to relive more awesome moments from Mavericks history? Check out my list of the top 40 greatest moments in franchise history.