40 Greatest Moments in Dallas Mavericks History #21-30: The Rise of Dirk Nowitzki

We’re continuing our celebration of the Dallas Mavericks’ 40th anniversary by counting down the 40 greatest moments in franchise history.

There have been more than 40 amazing moments and that list is growing with every game. But these are the absolute best. The ones Mavericks fans will tell their children about. The moments we are proud to have witnessed.

Within this list, you’ll hear comments and first-hand accounts from some of your favorite Dallas Mavericks bloggers and podcasters.

This is the second of four segments.

Greatest Moments in Dallas Mavericks Franchise History – #21-30

30. Jason Terry Wins Sixth Man of the Year Award in 2009

Jason Terry will always have a special place in the hearts of Mavericks fans. His team-first attitude was on full display when he willingly took a bench role after being a starter for most of his career.

He owned that role. He and Dirk Nowitzki developed a synergy that put fear in the eyes of defenses and coaches. And Terry wasn’t afraid to show his feelings. He fed off the crowd and we fed off of him.

He averaged nearly 20 points per game on 46% shooting during his Sixth Man of the Year season. He played a key role in the Mavericks’ 9th straight season of winning at least 50 games. And his most important contributions were still to come.

29. Roy Tarpley Wins Sixth Man of the Year Award in 1988

Roy Tarpley’s story was full of tragic moments, but his greatness was undeniable in the 1987-1988 season. In his second season in the NBA, Tarpley averaged over 13 points, 11 rebounds, and 1 block per game for the Dallas Mavericks.

This was a huge moment for the Mavericks. It was the eighth season in the NBA for the young franchise. The team won 50 games for the second time in franchise history and made their first appearance in the Western Conference Finals, which we’ll get to later on in this list.

Roy Tarpley’s Sixth Man of the Year award signaled a new high for the Mavericks.

28. Dallas Mavericks’ First NBA Game (and Win) in Franchise History

Talk about a huge moment.

In the Dallas Mavericks’ debut game, they faced the San Antonio Spurs. They had a shiny new arena and a team ready to take the league by storm. They came out of the gate swinging and defeated the Spurs 103-92, despite 33 points from the Spurs’ George Gervin.

The Spurs, of course, went on to win 52 games that year and became the rival “big brother” of the Dallas Mavericks.

But at least we got that win.

27. Jason Kidd Wins Rookie of the Year Award in 1995

The 90’s were tough for Mavericks fans. So Jason Kidd winning co-Rookie of the Year in 1995 was a big moment. It was also the first time a Dallas Mavericks player won Rookie of the Year in the history of the franchise.

After bursting onto the scene in the 80’s and fighting their way to a Conference Finals appearance within eight years of their inception, the Mavericks fell into a dark hole in the 90’s. Jason Kidd averaging 12 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals was a bright shining moment for the franchise.

26. Luka Doncic Wins Rookie of the Year Award in 2018

If you had to write the story of how a team legend passes the torch to the next generation before riding off into the sunset, you couldn’t have written it better than the rookie season of Luka Dončić.

Luka winning Rookie of the Year in 2018 was a tribute to Dirk Nowitzki’s legacy. His greatness built a franchise that could mold a young star into a new leader. He created a foundation that others could win from. A new chapter started at just the right moment.

25. Dallas Mavericks Make Their First Playoff Appearance in 1984

It didn’t take long for the Dallas Mavericks to give their fans something to cheer about. Within four seasons, they made the playoffs. Not only did they make the Playoffs, they beat their first round opponent, the Seattle SuperSonics!

This was a proud moment for the franchise. They built something from the ground up and did a spectacular job of it. Their draft choices of Mark AguirreRolando BlackmanJay Vincent, and Derek Harper, along with the signing of Brad Davis is a hot streak few franchises can match. A Playoff berth was the reward for a job well done.

24. Dallas Mavericks Trade for Michael Finley in 1996

The Mavericks made five trades in the 1996-1997 season, but none of them would be as impactful as this one. Michael Finley was a 15-point scorer up to that point in his career. As a Maverick, he would prove to be one of their most important players for almost a decade.

Finley averaged 20 or more points per game in five seasons with the Mavericks, made the All-Star team twice, and led the team until a young Dirk Nowitzki was ready to take his place in the history books.

23. Luka Doncic Scores 11 Straight Points Against the Houston Rockets

The night started with a live performance of Halleluka. It ended with Luka Dončić going on a personal 11-0 scoring run to send the Houston Rockets home with a loss.

The Dallas Mavericks were facing an 8-point deficit with three minutes left in the game. What followed was what Mavs fans now call Luka Magic.

A corner 3-pointer. A stepback three over Clint Capela. A floater. Another stepback over Capela. Eleven unanswered points.

That’s the kind of guy that makes 30-point triple-doubles look normal.

22. Dallas Mavericks Win First-Round Series Against Utah Jazz in 2001 Playoffs

By 2000, the Dallas Mavericks had won more than 30 games in a season only twice in the previous 10 seasons. After acquiring Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash in 1998, the fanbase was itching for success.

The new team finally got their first taste of the Playoffs in 2001. In their first-round series against the Utah Jazz, the Mavericks showed that they weren’t just a young team with dumb luck. They proved they could compete with anyone. They ended up winning that series, with Dirk Nowitzki averaging nearly 24 points and 8 rebounds per game.

This series had a few great moments in itself. One was Steve Nash‘s game-winning shot in Game 3 of the series. Mike Fraler from the podcast Mavs Archives shared his thoughts on the magnitude of that shot:

“One shot that seems to have been forgotten is Steve Nash’s game winning fadeaway jumper in Game 3 of the 2001 series vs. the Jazz. Nash’s shot gave the Mavs the lead for good with 22 seconds left. It saved their season, prevented them from being swept, and gave MFFLs at least one more game at Reunion Arena. Had Nash missed, their season likely ends in a 3-0 sweep to the Jazz, and we wouldn’t have been gifted with some legendary Dirk Nowitzki performances later on in that same postseason. That fadeaway over John Stockton remains ingrained in my memory, and it deserves more recognition in NBA history.”

Brian Zilem from Blue Hardwood commented on another great moment – the Calvin Booth game-winner in Game 5 – and what this series win meant for the franchise and Mavericks fans:

“Growing up a Mavs fan in the 90’s will certainly trust your loyalty. The 00-01 season was the first season I got to watch my favorite basketball team make the playoffs. Once the Mavs got down 0-2 to the Utah Jazz, which still had Karl Malone and [John] Stockton, I thought the series was over, but the little Mavericks came all the way back to beat the Utah Jazz 3-2 on a go ahead basket by the great Calvin Booth with 9.6 seconds in game 5.”

This was their first Playoff appearance in the Dirk era. It was just 10 years later when the Mavericks hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy as NBA Champions.

21. Dirk Nowitzki Scores 53 Points in a Duel with Tracy McGrady and the Houston Rockets

When fans filed into American Airlines Center for a Thursday night game in early December of the 2004-2005 season, they probably were not expecting to see one of the greatest offensive duels in NBA history.

Dirk Nowitzki and Tracy McGrady put on a show for the fans. Dirk had 53 points, 16 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 steals, and 2 assists. McGrady had 48 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks. The two matched each other bucket for bucket for the entire game, which went into overtime.

The Mavericks got the win, the game went into the history books, and Dirk solidified his legend.

There are more great moments to remember. We’ve seen the rise of Dirk Nowitzki and the start of Luka Magic. Still to come are battles against the Lakers, legendary comebacks, and historic draft nights. Stay tuned for the final 20 greatest moments in Dallas Mavericks history.