Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki: Beating the Heat Made Winning the Championship That Much More Special

June 23, 2011 – 8:30 am by Eric Schmoldt

After losing in the 2006 NBA Finals, Dirk Nowitzki had always said that it wouldn’t matter who the Mavericks played in their next Finals, as long as he got back there and had a chance to win it all. Now that he’s done just that, he feels a little differently as to the importance of the opponent.

Nowitzki says that beating the Miami Heat, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh made winning the title “that much sweeter.” It certainly didn’t hurt that he was able to quiet his critics against such an opposing cast on his way to winning the Finals MVP.

Now Dirk’s ready to celebrate. He’s off to Germany for a few weeks to party with family and friends who still reside there, then he’ll decide if he wants to play in the European Championships this summer.

Dirk Nowitzki joined KTCK in Dallas on The Hardline to discuss whether winning the title has hit him yet, quieting his critics, making it through a tough road to the championship, beating the Big Three in Miami to do it, if he’d still come to the U.S. if he could go back to the beginning of his career and how special it was to win with Jason Terry.

Has it really hit you yet that you won the championship?:

“It’s unbelievable still. During the day there will be some stuff going on, running some errands or whatever, and then you’ll come home and sit down and you’re like, ‘Man, we’re the world champions.’ Once in a while it sinks in. The rest of the time it’s almost like business as usual and all of the sudden you go to bed at night and it hits you. It has phases.”

On quieting his critics:

“It’s really an amazing feeling because when I first got here obviously I didn’t know if I was going to make it in this league. I had a tough time adjusting on and off the floor and then went through some tough times early on. I think I’ll always credit [Don Nelson] who was great and gave me a lot of confidence. But I always want to credit Steve Nash and Michael Finley. They were true pros, had great careers and I think they showed me the right way on and off the floor. They were really, really important to me. … Since then, it’s been an amazing ride.”

On the tough road through the playoffs all the way through the Finals:

“It was an amazing run. I think, if you want to be the best, ultimately you’ve got to beat the best. We literally can say, in every round there was an amazing player, an amazing team waiting for us. People expected us to lose to Portland. We fought through a tough loss there in Game 4 and came back and closed them out in six. I thought we carried that momentum right into L.A. where we were able to steal two road games, which in the playoffs is huge. Then, obviously Durant is one of the best players in this league. Then it just kept getting more with Miami and the three superstars. I just think we took it all, we took every blow in this playoff run and we’re still standing.”

Does it make it more special knowing you beat the Heat after LeBron and The Decision led to The Big Three?:

“Kinda. During this stretch run leading up to the Miami series, I said it really doesn’t matter who you play because the energy you have to spend to get back to this stage … I probably would have played the Clippers or whoever in the Finals just because we made it. But looking back at it now, to beat a team like that with two of the best players in the league and Bosh, who is up there … I just think a lot of things came together that made it even sweeter.”

Given the strength of European basketball, do you think you would make the same decision to come to the U.S. if you could go back and do it all over again?:

“I think, still, in Europe, everybody thinks that the NBA is the best. To be one of the best, you’ve got to come over here and compete. … The NBA is still the ultimate dream for everybody. Yes, there are some great leagues in Europe now. You can make a lot of money in Spain, Greece, top clubs in Italy, Germany has some decent clubs. I think that’s great, but still, ultimately the main goal is make it to the NBA.”

How special was it to win with Jason Terry, the only guy left from the 2006 team that lost in the Finals?:

“He’s been in a tough spot. He had to replace Steve who was basically my best friend on the team and Jet came in and didn’t really know what to expect. But he’s been great. He’s been our clutch closer. He’s been everything we asked him. And then we asked him to come of the bench and he did that. He adjusted and really thrived in that role. … He’s been there right along with me and we worked together and he’s always in the gyms at night with his crew working on his shot. He put a lot of work into it as well, so I’m really proud of him, especially with how he responded there in the Finals.”

Listen to Dirk Nowitzki on KTCK in Dallas here

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