With 48 seconds left on the pregame clock before the Mavs’ season opener, the Miami Heat scurried off the court into the dark quarters of the visiting locker room. On the court, however, the Mavs and their fans celebrated something they’ve waited 31 long-suffering years for – the raising of a NBA Championship banner to proudly hang at American Airlines Center.
What better way for Mavs fans to celebrate Christmas than with the finest gift the NBA offers – the championship banner, which even came wrapped in black cloth like a regular ol’ Christmas present. The historical ceremony was chock full of last season’s highlights including dunks from Dirk, multiple fadeaways against none other than Miami’s big three, more dunks from Dirk, Jason Kidd getting fouled in the paint and more violent dunks from Dirk over LeBron’s head-banded head. With every memorable basket the crowd grew louder and louder with uncontrollable passion.
After the game, the media questioned Coach Spoelstra on his team’s absence on the court during the ceremonious banner raising. The media has been buzzing with rumors on how the big three, especially former finals MVP Dwyane Wade would feel during the ceremony having been on the other side; the literal other side when the Heat beat the Mavs back in the 2006 finals. “We did it out of respect. Other teams do that when we retire jerseys – it’s their moment. That’s a good storyline, but we did it out of respect, no other reason,” Spoelstra said in response to the media’s bait.
But it wasn’t LeBron who got the biggest boos of the day; no, those were reserved for none other than Commissioner David Stern. Every single fan clad in Mavs blue directed their audible criticisms at The Commish – all while the poor guy was congratulating the hometown champs and their city on last year’s prodigious victory. Knowing his recent standings with fans, he kept his approbatory speech short and sweet – less than 53 seconds of talk time from the man many hold solely responsible for the shortened season (now a 66 game season versus the customary 82). Stern quickly handed the microphone over to Jason Terry and the sold-out crowd once again erupted with triumph.
But not for long. As soon as the banner reached the top of the JumboTron, fans ran out of things to celebrate. The only time the Mavs actually led the Heat was when Chris Bosh muffed up yet another tipoff. Shortly after, the celebrations for the hometown team quieted down only to pique once more for the standing ovation they gave Lamar Odom as he entered the game in the first quarter. Rightly so, because just seconds after, he drained his first shot in a Mavs uniform, sinking a three-pointer from behind the arch. Fans went wild. Probably more so for Khlomar, but wild, nonetheless.
Heading into the game, the Mavs were the only active team undefeated on Christmas day (2-0), but the Heat came to play with a lot to prove. As one member of the media commented outside their locker room, “they [Heat] played angry.” And not just because their last game was a loss on their own home court, which cost them their very own championship banner in “South Beach,” but the last time the Heat beat the Mavericks in the regular season was March 26, 2004. That’s a whole lot of love lost for the two teams.
These two teams have had a lot of back in forth in the way of stats. Eight of the last 10 defending champs have followed their championship season with a season-opening victory the next year. The last team to lose a season-opener after winning it all? You guessed it – the Miami Heat. On June 12, 2011 when the Mavs secured their first NBA title in franchise history, they beat the Heat on the road 105 – 95. Yesterday afternoon, Miami virtually reversed those numbers winning 105-94.
As a highly publicized finals rematch, there wasn’t much for the Mavs to celebrate or look at, unless you counted the pretty new banner. While it’s only the first game of the season, fans are hoping they are left with much more than a ticket stub and replica championship banner to hang in their homes and offices. With the abbreviated season already in motion, the Mavs don’t have the luxury of sitting around and applauding themselves on last year’s success – it’s time to play ball like the champions they are.
While the Mavs certainly had something to celebrate before the game, it became clear after the game they have more work than celebration ahead of them. Lets hope they bring the A-game that Dallas fans have become accustomed to sooner rather than later. Game two saw a similar result against the Denver Nuggets. Their third attempt to get it straightened out is tonight in Oklahoma City – It doesn’t get any easier.
This article was featured on Scoreboard Daily, a comprehensive sport’s publication in Dallas/Fort Worth.