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2011 NBA Finals: The Disappearance Of LeBron James And Heroics Of Dirk Nowitzki

2011 NBA Finals: The Disappearance Of LeBron James And Heroics Of Dirk Nowitzki

LeBron James is one of the greatest players ever to play this game called basketball. He's a four-time NBA champion who's made it to 10 NBA Finals, including eight straight from 2011 to 2018.

LeBron has lost six of those 10 Finals appearances, but many give the King a pass because of the competition he faced. This is true; LeBron has played teams that were stacked.

LeBron was also only 22 years old when he played in his first Finals against the San Antonio Spurs in 2007. This has also been used as a pass for the King.

The one true stain on LeBron's legacy is the often forgotten 2011 NBA Finals when LeBron first teamed up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. In 2011, LeBron surprisingly disappeared while another superstar took over and had a heroic performance. This player was Dirk Nowitzki.

2011 NBA Finals: Game 1

The entire basketball world was talking about LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh as their Miami Heat were finding their stride through the season. At the same time, not many were talking about Dirk Nowitzki and his aging Dallas Mavericks.

Nowitzki and the Mavericks quietly had a great season, winning 57 games, but no one believed they'd come out of the West at playoff time. Dirk and his team proved the doubters wrong after making the NBA Finals.

The Heat were the favorites to win the title at the beginning of the season, and they easily made it to the Finals. With Game 1 set in Miami, many believed this would be another easy series victory for the Heatles.

The Heat proved their supporters to be right after a comeback 92-84 victory in Game 1. LeBron's Heat started the game slowly as Dirk's Mavericks led by eight points at one point in the third quarter.

Then, the Heatles played like the team LeBron said before ever playing a game in Miami would win “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven [championships]”.

The Heat went on a 22–10 run to take a 65–61 lead into the fourth quarter, where they'd finish the Mavericks off. LeBron finished with 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. Wade added 22, and Bosh chipped in with 19 points.

Dirk did all he could for the Mavericks, scoring 27 while grabbing 8 boards. To make matters worse for Dallas, with 3:44 remaining in the fourth quarter, Dirk tore a tendon in his left middle finger. He remained in the game wearing a splint, but this made Dallas' chances of winning the title shrink tremendously.

“It was just a freaky play,” Nowitzki said about the injury. “I have to wear a splint probably for the rest of the playoffs, for a couple of weeks. But it will be all right.”

As the Mavericks headed into Game 2 in Miami, most of the “experts” were writing this series off as a sure victory for the Heat.

2011 NBA Finals: Game 2

Game 2 was a tight, hard-fought game in the first half. The score was tied at 51 at halftime, and it was Wade who led the charge for the Miami Heat.

Wade scored 21 points in the first half on 9-13 shooting. LeBron chipped in 12 points, and Bosh contributed 6. The Heat's Big 3 was in complete form.

The Mavericks had a balanced attack with Shawn Marion scoring 10 and three others, including Dirk, scoring 9. This set up what would be an incredible second-half finish.

The Heat led 88-73 with 6:21 remaining in the fourth quarter after Wade hit a corner three-pointer. After the three, LeBron and Wade celebrated in front of the Mavericks bench while Dallas called for a timeout.

The Heat had all the momentum, and surely they'd win and go up 2-0 in the series. Right? Everyone thought this was going to happen, but Dirk had other ideas.

Dirk led a historic comeback that made LeBron and Wade's celebration look laughable. The Mavericks kept inching closer with an assortment of big made baskets.

Then, with 2:45 remaining in the game, Dirk hit a jumper that cut the Heat's lead to only two points. This was when Heat fans started to get worried.

Their team was once up by 15 with 6:21 left in the game. A win would give them that oh, so, important 2-0 lead before heading out to Dallas for three consecutive games.

After Dirk's jumper, both teams struggled, not scoring for over a minute. Then, LeBron missed a three with 1:07 seconds remaining. Udonis Haslem followed the miss with a putback, but his shot was blocked from behind.

Haslem chased the ball down and threw it back toward his teammates before the ball went out of bounds. The ball got knocked around and was picked up by the Mavs' Jason Terry.

The Mavericks had the ball, and they were running on a three-on-one fast break. Shawn Marion caught the ball with Chris Bosh, the lone Heat defender closing in on him.

Marion quickly passed the ball to Dirk, who went by Bosh to finish a layup. With 57.6 seconds remaining in the game, the score was tied at 90.

Wade tried to answer with a dagger three, but he missed with 38.9 seconds remaining. Dirk rebounded the miss, and the Mavericks set up their offense.

For Heat fans, the unthinkable happened next. Somehow, Dirk found himself wide open behind the three-point line.

Jason Terry found his open teammate, and Dirk calmly buried the three, putting the Mavs up 93-90 with 26.7 seconds left in the game. The Heat wasn't ready to go away quite yet, and they'd prove it on the next play.

The Miami Heat ran the perfect inbound play by having LeBron, the terrific passer he is, be the triggerman. LeBron passed the ball across to the other side of the court to a wide-open Mario Chalmers.

Chalmers drilled the three, and the game was once again tied with 24.5 seconds remaining. Heat fans started to feel good again. Their superstar team was supposed to win, and now they were in a better spot to achieve this.

Once again, Dirk had other ideas. The ball ended up in Dirk's hands with 9.8 seconds left in the game. He was guarded closely by Chris Bosh.

Typically, Bosh was a good defender. On this play, he would find himself in no-man's-land with a player who was on a mission. Dirk spun past Bosh like he wasn't there and finished with a beautiful left-handed layup to give the Mavericks a 95-93 lead.

The Heat were down by two, with 3.6 seconds remaining. Miami had a problem; they were out of timeouts.

The Heat had to go fast, and they gave the ball to LeBron, who quickly found Wade, who threw up a desperation three to beat the buzzer. Wade's shot missed, and the comeback was complete for the Mavericks.

The squad from Dallas won 95-93 and got the split in Miami. Dirk scored the last 9 points of the game for the Mavs, including the game-winning layup.

For the game, Dirk finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists. Wade finished with 36 points in the loss, and LeBron added 20 points.

“Well, I just think we're a resilient bunch, and we saw it,” Dirk said about the Mavs' comeback. “This whole series we were down some. We kept battling back. Kept believing in each other. I just think this is a win for team basketball. This is a win for playing as a team on both ends of the floor, of sharing the ball, of passing the ball, and we've been doing that all season long. I'm happy. We never looked at ourselves as soft. Not for one minute. And we just kept fighting.”

Jason Terry also had something to say after the game. He wanted to speak about Wade and LeBron's celebration early in the fourth quarter:

“It was a turning point in the game. We said there’s no way we’re going out like this, with them dunking on us and stuff. It would have really been disheartening.”

Wade responded to Terry's comments, claiming the reaction to the celebration was overblown:

“They won the game, so obviously, it did something. But that’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time. Don’t make anything about the celebration. It had nothing to do with the outcome of the game for us. Defensively, we had breakdowns.”

The series now shifted to Dallas for three games. Even with blowing the lead, the Heat still felt confident about their chances in the series.

2011 NBA Finals: Game 3

The Miami Heat jumped all over the Mavericks in Game 3. They led 29-22 after the first quarter. But like Game 2, the Mavericks would battle back.

The game would be close by halftime, with the Heat holding onto a 47-42. The Heat would regain their stride at the start of the third, pushing the score to 55-42 with 10:09 remaining in the third quarter.

Dirk would lead the charge, and the Mavericks would get right back into the game. The Mavericks and Heat traded blows for the rest of the game, as the score remained close.

Toward the end of the game, Dirk and Wade put on a show, battling each other, seemingly one-one. Dirk scored 12 straight for the Mavericks toward the end of the fourth, while Wade scored seven in a row for the Heat.

With 43.6 seconds remaining in the game with the score tied at 86, LeBron found Bosh in the corner for a wide-open jumper; he made it.

39.6 seconds were remaining on the clock, and the Heat led 88-86. Would the Mavericks get more heroics from their German star?

Unfortunately, for Mavericks fans, Dirk threw the ball out of bounds. The Mavs would get one more chance after LeBron missed a long jumper with 4.4 seconds left.

The ball would end up in Dirk's hands, and this time, he was guarded closely by Haslem. Miami defeated Dallas 88-86 and took back the series lead 2-1.

Dirk's 34 points weren't enough to get the win in this game. Wade led Miami with 29 points, while LeBron added 17, and Bosh scored 18.

2011 NBA Finals: Game 4

The fans in Dallas weren't feeling so good after watching their team fall 2-1 in the series. Things would get worse, as Mavs' fans weren't the only ones not feeling good.

The night before Game 4, Dirk started to get the chills. He woke up on game day with a fever and what would be described as the flu.

The news of Dirk being sick quickly made it around the NBA circle. Once LeBron and Wade found out, they famously cracked jokes coughed, mocking Dirk:

This didn't sit well with Mavs fans, Dirk, or his teammates. Dallas wanted to win more than before, which was a high priority to not lose and go down 3-1 in the series.

Game 4 would be a close battle once again as both teams seemingly traded blows. Wade was having yet another fantastic game for the Heat, scoring 32 points on 13-20 shooting, and Bosh played great, adding 24 points.

Dirk wasn't feeling well, but he was out on the court, giving it his all. To many fans, Dirk's situation reminded them of another player having the “flu” in the NBA Finals.

Back in the 1997 NBA Finals, Game 5, to be exact, Michael Jordan famously played with the flu. It was later revealed that Jordan had food poisoning, but the game lives on as the famous “Flu Game”.

Jordan had a dominant game, scoring 38 points on 13-27 shooting and 2-5 from three. MJ also hit the go-ahead three with 25 seconds remaining.

The Bulls won the game, and Jordan's performance went down in history as one of the greatest of all time. Would Dirk have a similarly dominant performance playing with the flu?

Not quite. Dirk struggled to shoot the ball, going 6-19 from the field and 0-2 from three.

Despite his shooting woes, Dirk managed to score 21 points and grab 11 rebounds. The German did manage to “Be like Mike” in his performance toward the end of the game.

Dirk caught the ball with 24.6 seconds left in the game. The Mavericks held an 82-81 lead, and Dirk was guarded close by Haslem.

Dirk attacked the basket and scored a clutch layup with 14.4 seconds remaining. The Mavericks now led 84-81, but the Heat would have one more chance.

Wade had been “The Man” all series for the Heat, and on this play, it wouldn't be any different. “The Flash” ran right past the Mavericks defense and slammed the ball home with 9 seconds remaining; the Heat trailed 84-83.

The Heat wouldn't get any closer. After Jason Terry nailed two free throws, the Heat turned the ball over and the clock would run out; the Mavericks defeated the Heat 86-83.

This was an incredible win for the Mavericks and a gutsy performance by Dirk. The big story after the game wasn't about Dirk's performance, but about LeBron's.

The King is one of the greatest scorers in league history, despite being a willing passer. In Game 4, LeBron disappeared.

LeBron scored a career-low for an NBA Finals game, with 8 points. He shot 3-11 from the floor and 0-3 from three.

It wasn't just the fact LeBron struggled; he looked scared at times on the floor. LeBron didn't appear like he wanted the responsibility of taking the big shots toward the end of the game, and this is what cost the Heat the game.

Before the game, Wade and LeBron were laughing at Dirk. By the end of the game, the only one laughing was the big German.

2011 NBA Finals: Game 5

The first four games in the 2011 NBA Finals were all low-scoring games. Game 5, on the other hand, was a fast-paced, high-scoring game.

The Mavericks led 60-57 at the half in yet again, another close game. Both teams kept this battle up down the stretch of the fourth quarter.

The Heat held on to a slim 100-97 lead over the Mavericks. At this point in the series, Mavs fans weren't worried. They knew their Mavericks would find a way... Again.

It started with Jason Terry drilling a three-pointer to tie the game at 100 with 3:22 left. Then, Dirk would hit another big shot, this time a dunk to put the Mavericks up 102-100.

With 2:27 remaining with the score still 102-100, LeBron drove to the hoop off a pass from Wade and was called for the offensive foul.

This took any momentum the Heat still had completely away. The Mavericks ended the game on a 17-4 run to win 112-103.

Dirk had another stellar game, finishing with 29 points to lead the Mavericks. LeBron rebounded from his terrible Game 4 performance to finish with a triple-double. The King scored 17 points while collecting 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

LeBron's effort wouldn't be enough in this game. Now, facing elimination, would LeBron and his Heat teammates step up to the challenge?

2011 NBA Finals: Game 6

The series shifted back to Miami for Game 6 and Heat fans were hoping to see their team get back to their dominant selves. As stated earlier, LeBron claimed the Heat would win seven titles in his tenure with the team.

The Heat weren't off to a great start with their recent performances against Dallas, and things wouldn't get better in Game 6.

After LeBron started the game hot by making his first four shots, things fell apart for the Heat. Miami's 20-11 lead quickly disappeared as Dirk made his first shot and his teammates started to make their shots.

The Mavericks built a double-figure lead early in the second quarter, but the Heat weren't ready to bow down just yet. After an Eddie House three with 6:25 remaining in the first half, the Heat recaptured a 42-40 lead.

The Mavericks would take the lead back by the end of the first half, leading 53-51. This was incredible for the Mavericks since Dirk only scored 3 points on 1-12 shooting in the first half.

The Mavericks were led by their sixth man, Jason Terry, who led all scorers with 19 in the first half on 8-10 shooting. LeBron led the Heat with 11 first-half points while Wade and Bosh added 9 points each.

Game 6 was looking to have another fantastic finish, as most of the other games. The big question now was, can Dirk find his rhythm and take over the game?

Dirk would, scoring 8 points in the third on 3-7 shooting. The German's great play helped the Mavericks build a 9-point lead after three quarters.

Dirk's revamped play continued in the fourth quarter, as he scored 10 more points on 5-8 shooting. Terry, who was dominant in the first half, scored 6 points in the fourth on 2-4 shooting.

For the Heat, LeBron came alive in the fourth. After scoring 9 in the first quarter, LeBron only scored 5 points combined in the second and third quarters.

In the fourth, LeBron led the Heat with 7 points on 3-5 shooting. Unfortunately, for LeBron, his points came after the Mavericks extended their lead.

The Mavericks would hold on to win the game, 105-95, and their first championship. Dirk scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds en route to being named the Finals MVP.

Terry led the Mavericks in scoring with 27 points in Game 6. His play was the difference for the Mavs winning the title. LeBron led the Heat in scoring with 21 points, while Wade added 17 and Bosh contributed with 19 points.

The Mavericks were NBA champions and most were talking about how the Heat's Big 3 collapsed and how LeBron James fell apart. This should be remembered when people consider who's the greatest of all time, but this shouldn't be the biggest remembrance of the series.

NBA fans should never forget how an injured, sick, lone All-star, in Dirk Nowitzki, took over the series and defeated what may be the greatest Big 3 in NBA history. Dirk gave us a performance for the ages, and for that, as NBA fans, we thank you, Dirk Nowitzki.


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