The Dallas Mavericks Made Me Like The NBA A Little Bit

Last night, and throughout the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks grew on me. Sure, it definitely helped that they beat the loathesome Miami Heat, but I found myself secretly liking them earlier in the playoffs, probably around the time they pants'ed Kobe and the Lakers in a 4-0 sweep.

The Mavs aren't like a lot of these other NBA teams. Sure, DeShawn Stevenson can be a bit of a preening punk, but it's microscopic compared to most NBA teams and their "stars." The Mavs big-time players/contributors are largely likable guys, the kinds of guys you find yourself kind of happy to see win a title. Dirk, Kidd, Jason Terry. A coach like Rick Carlisle, perhaps unfairly maligned in other stops, getting his ring while more celebrated coaches watch from home. Or the stands.

Jason Terry got interviewed at halftime -- not long after an on-court scuffle -- and actually credited how good the Heat are and how they needed to stick to it, etc., etc. Meanwhile, the Heat players make fun of Dirk for being sick (and still kicking their asses -- dumb) and Wade is quoted before Game 6 as saying, "Well, if they somehow do miraculously win the game..." Yes, stay humble, Heat. Stay just the way you are. We love you this way.

There are people out there who -- inexplicably to me -- root for guys like LeBron. I think most of these people don't understand what a lousy person LeBron really is -- or maybe they just don't care. And that's actually fine, if that's your take. But I just can't help but root against a guy who is that arrogant and who looks down upon fans and, more disgustingly, treats people he deems as below him terribly. Adrian Wojnarowski wrote a pretty good column this morning about Dirk's accomplishments and how LeBron really won't ever have the feeling Dirk did last night. Within the column, he touches a bit on LeBron's obnoxiousness:

To hear James suggest that the world will have to return to its sad, little ordinary lives and he’ll still get to be LeBron James late Sunday night was a window into his warped, fragile psyche. It was sad, and portends to how disconnected to the world he truly is.

“They have to wake up and have the same life that they had before they woke up today … the same personal problems,” James said. “I’m going to continue to live the way that I want to live. … But they have to get back to the real world at some point.”

There’s nothing real about James’ world, and never has been. He’s a prisoner of a life that his sycophants and enablers and our sporting culture has created for him. He’s rich and talented and something of a tortured soul. He’s the flawed superstar for these flawed times. He’s a creation of a basketball breeding ground full of such twisted priorities and warped principles. Almost every person who’s ever had to work closely with him, who has spent significant time, who’s watched him belittle and bully people, told me they were rooting hard against him. That’s sad, and that’s something he doesn’t understand and probably never will.

It's almost as though he's an over-the-top villain in some terrible sports movie. Why not just give credit and thank your fans for their support? What a jerk. Understand this, LeBron supporters: he sees you as dirt. You're just something in the way of him collecting his next paycheck and receiving adulation from Stuart Scott. If you're not there to kiss his -- well, finger, I guess, since he doesn't have a ring -- then he's got no use for you. And even if you are a sycophant, well, that's what you're supposed to be in his opinion. He's rich, bitch, and you're not.

But back to the champs.

Jason Kidd, at almost 38 years old, many teams, two trips to the Finals with the Nets (does everyone realize what an accomplishment that was?), finally gets his ring. Remember how cooked this team looked when they traded for him and still fizzled in the playoffs? A nice bow on the career for JKidd.

How about Mark Cuban? I know he pisses people off sometimes, but how can you not like that this guy won a title? He's poured more than three quarters of a billion dollars into salary alone since he bought the team 11 years ago. He's endured a lot of criticism from the outside for his meddling, but the players all seem to love him. Remember, this is a guy who bought a horrible, moribound franchise (think worse than the Clippers) and said to the players (and I'm paraphrasing), "What do you guys need? A better locker room? Big screen TVs? What would make playing here awesome?"  And when he got the feedback, he made it happen. This is the guy who is the rich version of all of us -- he was a fan who had season tickets and eventually had enough money to buy his favorite team. Just imagine that for a moment -- whatever team you like and currently go see.... that one day you get to own it and do what we all sometimes think about.

And, of course, a guy like Dirk. Another unfairly maligned guy, called soft by columnists and opponents. But year after year, showing up and playing full seasons, making his game better and not doing self-serving commercials or obnoxious 5th-grade-level show-and-tells. A guy who, I have to say, is hard to hate. And as anyone who reads us knows, we dislike a lot of sports personalities.

So anyway, we're still not NBA fans and we still think the league is a terrible product. But for a change, the guys holding the championship trophy aren't putting on obnoxious shirts about how many rings they have or butchering an attempt at screaming a tagline of a sponsor. The celebration looked real and enjoyable and, wow, kind of like a championship celebration should look. Joyful.

******EDIT/UPDATE******

Only a colossal idiot like me would write a post like this and not mention Brian Cardinal.

Of course, and this isn't a cop-out, it should go without saying that our Twitter-friend Brian is always a reason we would tolerate watching an NBA game. Seeing a fellow Boilermaker succeed at the highest level is always a true thrill. Guys like BC make us proud and do the University proud. The guy has worked hard, stayed humble and carved out an amazing career for himself. He's one of those guys where, when you look up the figures and see he's made over $34 million in his career, you kind of smile and think, "Good for him."

At least, I do.

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