Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mad Mavs Beyond Thunderdome: 2011 NBA Finals Game 5 Video!

Darth James throwing an elbow on Jedi Dirk

It was the biggest game in Dallas Mavericks history to date. Win this and they go up 3 games to 2 over the dreaded Miami Heat. If there ever was a case a basketball good vs. basketball evil, this was it. The Heat's two drama queens Dwyane Wade and Lebron James - the Justin Bieber and Rodney Dangerfield of the league, respectively - have been strutting through the season after talk of winning seven championships and dominating the NBA.

But just like a good western, here come the wounded Mavericks, their second best player lost to injury halfway through the season have made it to the finals with a combination of heart, guts and guile. The more they're supposed to lose the more they win. No, they didn't fade away when hell came to town, they cowboy'd up, got back in the saddle and rode their way to finals. I've never seen a playoff run like this in any sport in all my life.

Everyone was all smiles before the game. Anticipation was in the air!

I've haven't see the Mavericks live in twenty years, back at the now defunct Reunion Arena. It's been said that the new American Airlines Center never gets as loud as the old "Reunion Rowdies", who whooped and hollered their boys with a frenzy. But all that was about to change. It was known but unspoken, not wanting to tempt the basketball gods, the Mavericks were going to take this game. Anyone at the game that night had a ticket to history. As one radio commentator said afterwards, "I've never seen this building so full of energy."

I got there early (wanting to get full value of money spent for the aftermarket ticket). In Victory Plaza to the south a nonstop party was going on with media, promoters, performing fans, hucksters and every other sort of chaos you could think of. This is one time where I as a photographer was not in the minority. From I-Phones to HD cameras everyone wanted to capture the excitement. On more than one occasion I was asked by fellow fans to take their picture.

Victory Plaza 3



After pulling out metal objects like Mad Max emptying his weapons before entering Bartertown, I made it through security and found my seat. I was on the last row of the lower level, directly behind the basket. Not the best of seats but not the worst either. Watching from on high the players seem no different than on TV. But from my vantage point, I could see the action in more real terms - when the goal wasn't blocking it, that is. First thing I had to do was put on my blue shirt as part of the "blue out" to show fan solidarity.

Row S
My row. I was second seat in.

A shirt draped over every chair provided a sea of Maverick blue.

My view of the court.

I had never wanted to go to a regular season game, the Maverick's over-the-top in-game production a huge turn off for me. I don't need an overbearing PA announcer and constant music and bells and whistles to be entertained. When it comes to stuff like that, owner Mark Cuban doesn't know when to stop. This game wasn't like that. The events on the court were allowed to speak for themselves and before the night was over I'd leave exhausted, exhilarated and exuberant.

One advantage to my seat I found out was I just below where
the cheerleaders come out during a pause in the action.

Camera Guy
Cameras everywhere!

This is about as well as my point-and-shoot camera could zoom in.
Professional grade camera lenses are not allowed into the arena.

At this point I switched mainly to my video camera which has an outstanding zoom capability. A video montage is provided below.

The game started well for the Mavs and they stayed ahead most of the night but they just couldn't pull away. Outplaying a team but letting them hang around is oftentimes a recipe for late minute disaster. And sure enough halfway through the fourth quarter the evil Heat had a four point lead with a seeming momentum on their side. Three times as the Heat drew close with one of their patented flurries you could feel the crowd holding its breath like now. A timeout had been called by the Mavs to regroup. That was one long timeout to sit through!

Not that anyone was actually sitting. For 90% of the game I was standing as was our entire section. This was the final stretch and once again the Mavs needed to come from behind to win. But the Mavs were like Paul Newman in "The Hustler" looking up from his cue stick to address a doubter: "I'm going to beat him, mister. I beat him all night and I'm going to beat him all day." And that's exactly what happened. The Mavs roared from behind with an uncharacteristic thunder dunk from Dirk, a deflating (for the Heat) offensive charging foul taken by Tyson Chandler and a fuck-you three pointer from Jason Terry over a defending Lebron - which was the fatal dagger in the Heat's foul heart causing the loudest cheer in AAC history!

I'm so proud of this team I just can't stand it. I had tears in my eyes leaving the arena. Originally I had planned to stick around and film the after-game celebration but my energy was spent. I wanted to high-five everyone I met as I staggered my way out. Hell, I wanted to high-five the world, this just too good to keep inside. It was easily the greatest sporting experience of my life and I have a hard time imagining I could ever top it. Go Mavs! Even if you don't win it all, it's been an epic run for the ages and one of the greatest showings of sports heart I've ever seen.

Click here to see the entire set of photos.

UPDATE: Mavs win the ring! Mavs win the ring! 2011 NBA Champions! It's been a wonderful, magical ride. I'm completely overwhelmed, an UNBELIEVABLE dream!

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