Miami For Dirk Nowitzki, the resume is complete. He’s an NBA champion.
For LeBron James, the agonizing wait continues for at least one more year.
Avenging what happened five years ago in perfect turnabout style, the Dallas Mavericks claimed their first NBA title by winning Game 6 of these finals, 105-95, on Sunday night — celebrating on the Heat’s home floor, just as Dwyane Wade and his team did to them in the 2006 title series. The Mavericks won four of the series’ last five games, a turnabout that could not have been sweeter.
“I really still can’t believe it,” said Nowitzki, who had 21 points and took home finals MVP honors.
“Tonight,” Jason Terry said after leading Dallas with 27 points, “we got vindication.”
James did not. Not even close, and a year unlike any other ended they way they all have so far — with him still waiting for an NBA title.
He scored 21 points for Miami, shook a few hands afterward and departed before most of the Mavs tugged on their championship hats and T-shirts. Chris Bosh had 19, Mario Chalmers 18 and Dwyane Wade 17 for the Heat.
“We worked so hard and so long for it,” Nowitzki said. “The team has had an unbelievable ride.”
So did the Heat. Unlike Dallas, theirs wasn’t a joyride.
“It goes without saying,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You’re never really prepared for a moment like this. ... Neither team deserved this championship more than the other, but Dallas earned it.”
Make no mistake: Miami lost the finals, but the blame will be directed at James. Even he knew that after the way he left Cleveland with “The Decision” and all the animus that generated not just in Ohio but around the entire league, the only way he could silence some critics was with a title.
“It doesn’t weigh on me,” James said. “At all.”
Still, he got even more criticism — and a thinly veiled jab from his former owner with the Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, who reveled in the moment on Twitter.
“Mavs NEVER stopped & now entire franchise gets rings,” Gilbert wrote. “Old Lesson for all: There are NO SHORTCUTS. NONE.”
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle joined a highly elite group, those with NBA titles as both a player and a head coach. Only 10 other men are on that list, including the presumably retired-for-good Phil Jackson, one of Carlisle’s mentors in K.C. Jones, and Heat President Pat Riley — who led Miami past Dallas in 2006, and was the mastermind of what the Heat did last summer by getting James, Wade and Bosh on the same team with an eye on becoming a dynasty.
It might still happen.
But even after 72 wins this season, including playoffs, the Heat lost the last game. And that means this year was a disappointment — except to just about everyone else in the NBA, or so it would seem.
“This is a true team,” Carlisle said. “This is an old bunch. We don’t run fast or jump high. These guys had each other’s backs. We played the right way. We trusted the pass. This is a phenomenal thing for the city of Dallas.”
Hating the Heat became the NBA’s craze this season, and the team knew it had no shortage of critics, everyone from Cleveland (where “Cavs for Mavs” shirts were popular during these finals) to Chicago (the city James and Wade both flirted with last summer) and just about every place in between lining up to take shots at Miami.
“We could feel it,” Carlisle said, noting he was repeatedly told during the finals that “billions” of people wanted to see Dallas topple Miami.
Given their newfound popularity, meet the new America’s Team.
Sorry, Cowboys — your long-held moniker might have to be ceded to your city’s NBA club. When it was over, Mavs owner Mark Cuban ran onto the court to hug Carlisle, then punched the air and whooped.
“I’m so happy for him. I’m so happy for Dirk,” Carlisle said.
Carlisle said Riley came down to congratulate the Mavericks after the game, showing “unbelievable class.”
“Their time will come,” Carlisle said. “But now, it’s our time.”