Last year I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the Boston Celtics (my home team and my favorite NBA team) made it into the Finals. While I didn't give them much of a chance against the Los Angeles Bryants (oops, I mean Lakers!), they actually managed to take a 3-2 lead in that series before heartbreakingly losing the last two games. From a pleasant surprise to a crushing defeat in two games--not how a Celtics fan (and Lakers hater) wanted the season to end. This year both the Lakers and the Celtics had good years, but showed weaknesses too. I still fully expected to see the Lakers in the Finals again for the fourth straight year. I was almost as happy to see Los Angeles swept by the Mavericks earlier in the postseason as I was disappointed by the Celtics' defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat.
Like I said, I've never been a fan of the Mavericks, but like a large segment of the NBA-watching populace, I was deeply disturbed by the self-crowned "King James" (Lebron James) and his quest to steamroll over the league by joining forces with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade as the newest version of a "Big Three". Even more than I wanted the Celtics to win another championship--even more than I wanted the Lakers to not win another championship--I desperately did NOT want Lebron to finally win his first championship.
Earlier in the season the Celtics were able to handle the Heat pretty easily--winning the first three of their four regular season games. It wasn't until their fourth and final meeting that the faltering Celtics lost big to the finally-putting-it-all-together Heat. Of course that same momentum carried over into the playoffs and the Celtics didn't put up much of a fight against the team created specifically to win the championship this year. The Chicago Bulls were the last chance to keep King James out of the Finals, and they could do no better than the Celtics. Like the Celtics against the Lakers last year, I didn't give the Dallas Mavericks much of a chance against the Miami Heat steamroller (despite the fact that they managed to sweep the defending-champion Lakers earlier in the playoffs).
As I said, I've never been a fan of the Mavericks. I've never really had anything against them (other than occasionally being annoyed by the antics of loudmouthed owner Mark Cuban), they've just never been "my" team. But I did have a few reasons to like them in this Finals series. I do have a lot of respect for the ancient Jason Kidd (who's nearly as old as I am!). I've found a lot of respect for team star Dirk Nowitzki as the games in this series have progressed. And, the above-mentioned Mark Cuban has been mercifully silent throughout the playoffs. Of course, the main reason I have been rooting for them is simply because they were pitted against the hated Heat!
Game Six (and the series) just ended a matter of minutes ago and, while it was nice seeing the Dallas players celebrate, it was positively priceless watching Lebron and company slowly walking off the court, heads hung low in defeat! It was an absolutely fabulous way to end what had been quite a stressful week. I'll never rub shoulders with NBA stars. I'll never experience the feeling of winning an NBA championship. But I still felt just a bit of what the Mavericks were feeling tonight simply because of who they beat to get there. King James will have to wait at least one more year for his much-anticipated coronation!