I Have Suffered Long
"Remembering the 1983-1984 Dallas Mavericks"
So just how old am I? Old enough that I can claim to have been present for the second ever playoff game in Dallas Mavericks history. I was ten years old on April 19, 1984, less than five months after I had been hit by a car while riding my bike to school one cool November morning. Among other serious injuries suffered that day, I had a gruesome compound fracture of my left leg, the exact same kind of fracture that infamously ended Joe Theismann's career exactly one year later on Monday Night Football. Theismann was hit by Lawrence Taylor. I was hit by a Green Pinto. Like Theismann, my injury, too, ended a promising athletic career. I went from being the second to last kid picked at sports (with a chance to become the second to the second to last kid) to the last. C'est la vie.
By April, I was still wearing a walking cast and using crutches for various movements. One such movement? Ascending the steps of Reunion Arena to claim my seat in the nosebleed seats, one row from the very top. Reunion Arena seated 17,007 fans during a sellout, and I'm quite certain there were no more than a hundred seats worse than mine. It seemingly took an hour to climb to the top, and even longer to climb down the perilously steep grade. The Mavericks had stunningly won Game 1 against the Seattle Supersonics (now known as the Oklahoma City Thunder), and Game 2 was a loud and raucous affair as we, the "Reunion Rowdies", waved our blue and white towels for the entire evening. With the game tied and the clock nearing zero, Gus Williams nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to lift Seattle to a heart-breaking 95-92 win. It was the only three-point-shot attempted by Seattle. Dallas also only attempted one three-point-shot. For comparison's sake, the Mavericks and Lakers combined to take 56 three-pointers yesterday. 56 to 2. The NBA was a little different then, no?
The Mavericks ended up winning that best-of-five series in about as crazy a way as possible. I won't go over the details here, but if you're a fan of basketball and not familiar with the Midnight Moody Madness of Game 5, aka "The Wackiest Game in Franchise History," here's a nice remembrance of the evening you really should read. One little note about that game is that it was only available on pay-per-view! Can you imagine? It's the first time my team makes the playoffs and now, faced with a decisive Game 5, I have to listen to the game on the radio. The radio.
With the miraculous upset over, the emotionally and physically drained Mavs went to L.A. to play the "Showtime" Lakers. You might have heard of these guys: Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Byron Scott, James McAdoo, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, and others. Jesus. We had Jay Vincent, Pat Cummings and Kurt Nimphius. Kurt Nimphius. The Lakers won Game 1 by a ridiculous score of 134-91. It was expected. Game 2 was only slightly better as the Mavs lost 117-101. These were the Lakers. And these were the Mavericks. It was expected. But when the action shifted back to Dallas, the Mavericks did the unthinkable and took Game 3 in, relatively speaking, impressive fashion. They won 125-115 and there was a strong belief amongst Mavs fans that we really could beat the Lakers in a Best-of-7 series.
Ahh, to be young and stupid and not know what hell the Mavericks would deliver its fans over the next 27 years. Oh, how I miss those days of naive optimism. Game 4 versus L.A. is one of the more infamous games in Mavericks history. It was a back-and-forth game filled with pure emotion and the stakes could not be higher. A win would even the series and send it back to LA for Game 5...one in which all the pressure would be on LA, and all the momentum with Dallas. Near the end of regulation, the Mavericks seized the upper hand by tying the score and then getting the ball back with about twenty seconds left to play for the, potentially, game-winning basket. Our point guard, Derek Harper, dribbled the ball above the 3-point line and patiently waited. And waited. And waited. Surely he was just guaranteeing that the Lakers wouldn't have time left on the clock after his decisive shot. Right? Wrong. Believing that the Mavericks already had the lead, he dribbled the ball until the clock ran out and began his celebration. Ooops. It was off to overtime for the Mavs...and they lost. Crushed by the dispiriting feeling of "almost, but not quite," the Mavericks lost Game 5 and the series on May 8, 1984.
Yesterday, 27 years later TO THE DAY, the Mavericks finally exorcised their demons and beat the Showtime Lakers in an NBA playoff series. They failed to beat them in 1986, they failed to beat them in 1988, and every NBA expert in the world---save for Charles Barkley---predicted they would fail again in 2011. But not this time. Even better, they vanquished the Lakers in a dominating four-game-sweep, the last game by a score of 122-86 that was eerily reminiscent of the beat-down given to the Mavericks in their first playoff game against the Lakers in 1984.
As a Mavs fan, I've suffered 27 years of heartbreak and near misses. I've suffered through the Sean Bradleys and Uwe Blabs. I've suffered through the Mavs being one of the worst sports franchises in the world during the 1990's. I've suffered the indignity of making it to the 2006 finals against the Miami Heat...being up 2-0 in the series with a solid lead late in Game 3...only to lose four straight games. I've suffered being a #1 seed in the playoffs and then losing to the #8 seed---the first time that had ever happened.
I have suffered long. I have suffered much.
But I think...I believe...the suffering is coming to an end.