Nowitzki leads furious comeback, emerging as all-time great competitor

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Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki pumps his fist as Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade falls on the floor at the end of the second half of Game 2 of the NBA Finals basketball game Thursday, in Miami. The Mavericks defeated the Heat 95-93. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki pumps his fist as Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade falls on the floor at the end of the second half of Game 2 of the NBA Finals basketball game Thursday, in Miami. The Mavericks defeated the Heat 95-93. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

When Dwyane Wade sunk that three pointer from the corner of the floor with around seven
minutes to go, I was already preparing to write a post on his greatness. A player with 36 points,
six assists, five rebounds, and seemingly enough monster dunks to fill an entire dorm room full
of posters, deserves all the media credit. But alas, Dwyane Wade, your efforts, as valiant as they
were, were nothing compared to the dramatic conclusion the Mavericks wrote at the end of this
would-be laugher of a game.

I’ve used a lot of words to describe Dirk Nowitzki in my lifetime. Of the ones that can actually
be mentioned for the world to see, the list includes adjectives like soft, cry-baby, flopper, one-
dimensional, choke-artist and boring, just to name a few. Giving him credit for any victory at any
time in his career was sacrilegious for me. In the past, I would have said Miami collapsed rather
than Dallas mounted a true comeback. But after last night I had to take a long hard look at myself
in the mirror to come to grips with the truth — Dirk Nowitzki is a true competitor.

Sure, he still flops like a fish out of water, only plays defense when he wants to, and didn’t quite
show up until the second half of the game yesterday, but you could see how much he wanted,
nay, needed yesterday’s game. The haunting memory of the epic Finals loss four years ago to a
very different looking Heat team is engrained in the back of his mind. He won’t even watch a
single game from that series.

So the fact that Nowitzki ended the game with an elementary left-handed lay-up after a stellar
move to get around Chris Bosh, was the icing on the cake to the Mavs’ 15-point, seven-minute
comeback. He’s a fundamental player with a fundamental problem eluding him from entering
the discussion as one of the game’s best to ever play: he needs a ring. But he is certainly close.
Yesterday he took an underdog Mavericks team by the leash, and helped them cap off a 22-5 run,
including the team’s last nine, over the last seven minutes of the game.

Jason Terry, the Mavericks’ only remaining player from the 2006 Finals debacle, looked at
Nowitzki in the huddle right after Wade’s huge three and told him he didn’t want to go out like
that. He didn’t want to see Miami take this veteran team and dunk over them, celebrate after
every shot, and jam the lead down the Mavericks’ throats. He pleaded for Dirk to help save them,
and the Big German responded, hurt left hand and all.

On paper, his stat line was average: 24 points, 11 rebounds and a block. It was more of a been-
there-done-that type of game for him. But each one of those points, especially the last nine, were
fueled by the notion that he can’t be counted out. That despite all his team's post-season failures,
despite his lack of flair, despite his continual inability to groom himself, Dirk Nowitzki will not
let his team lose without a dogfight. Not again. Not to the Heat.