Europeans In The NBA
|'All-Star Games and all of these things are nice, and scoring, but when you get to a certain age, basically you've seen it all, and what you play for is that ring,' said Dirk with the NBA trophy in his hands|
At long last, the wait is over.
Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks have their hands on the NBA trophy that had eluded them for so many years after beating the Miami Heat 105-95 on Sunday.
Denied in the title series five years ago, the Mavs got sweet revenge with a 4-2 triumph in the Finals.
Dallas rode the back of Nowitzki all season and he gave the club's championship-starved fans what they craved.
In the process, Nowitzki, who had 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, underlined his status as one of the sport's greatest-ever players by being named as the NBA Finals MVP.
Miami star Dwyane Wade, the MVP of five years ago, had said then that Nowitzki wasn't the leader that he was supposed to be in the closing moments of games.
He had a different opinion this time.
"I think he's played awesome," Wade said.
"Obviously five years ago, it burned in him and he learned from that experience.
"Even though he was one for 12 in the first half (on Sunday), he came out and made big shots for his team. He kept being aggressive, kept shooting.
"There's no question that he's been a great individual player and now that he's a champion, it goes without saying what it means for his career.
"So congratulations to him."
In his post-game press conference, Nowitzki, who turns 33 in six days, reflected on his career and one of the greatest nights of his life.
"This is what I obviously played for the last couple of years," Nowitzki said.
"When you first come into this league, you want to establish yourself.
"All-Star Games and all of these things are nice, and scoring, but when you get to a certain age, basically you've seen it all.
"And what you play for is that ring."Pau Gasol of Spain had been instrumental the previous two seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers in their title-winning sides but they were swept by the Mavericks in the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
"We fell short so many times," Nowitzki said.
The most painful of those setbacks was in 2006 when the Heat trailed the Mavs 2-0 in the Finals but then won four straight to lift the title.
While that Heat side had Shaquille O'Neal and Wade, this year's team seemed to be even better with Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
"I committed for four more years this summer and we didn't really know what was going to happen," Nowitzki said.
"We had first-round, second-round exits a couple of times. But consistency pays off."
The Mavs had injuries to deal with, including the loss of Caron Butler.
But they added the likes of Serbian sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic and got standout performances all season long from Jason Terry, who had 27 points on Sunday, Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler, Jose Barea and Nowitzki.
"We brought in Peja and he was a big addition for us in the earlier rounds of the play-offs," Nowitzki said.
The German basketball icon said he was glad to be in a Mavericks jersey.
"It wouldn't have felt right to win it somewhere else," he said.
Nowitzki achieved legendary status a long time ago in Europe.
The 2005 FIBA Europe Player of the Year, he was the MVP of the EuroBasket that year after leading Germany to a silver medal.
On Sunday, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle hailed Nowitzki as one of the greatest players of all time.
"I don't think there is any doubt after this series that Dirk has certainly earned the clout as one of the all-time great players," Carlisle said. "