It was Don Nelson’s best team in Dallas, 60 wins and 22 losses, at least until young star Dirk Nowitzki went down.
But the Mavericks moved on like the little engine that could and I was ready to hit the road and cover a game in San Antonio for the first time.
I’ve been there on leisure trips and sat in the fans. I still get e-mails about ticket-buying opportunities at the AT&T Center.
But I never made that trip on May 31st, 2003. Because that Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals never took place.
Steve Kerr happened instead. The little engine that was the Steve Nash-Nick Van Exel Mavericks ran out of steam.
Dallas, trailing 3-2 after an inspiring Game 5 win at San Antonio, led by as many as 15 points on 5-29-03. They led 71-58 with 10:53 to play in the game. But a 37-year-old Kerr, who said he wasn’t playing much because he was old, slow and not a good defender (perhaps the current Warriors coach was aiming at an analyst job) came in and buried four 3-pointers to help keep the Spurs in the game.
And then San Antonio took the fourth quarter, 34-9, and the game, 90-78, and went on to beat the Nets for the NBA title.
I made it to a few Game 7s in Dallas and was blessed with chance to cover two NBA Finals with Nowitzki and the Mavs and another in OKC against this Miami group, but never made it back to the Alamo City as anything but a tourist.
But 11 years later I’m headed back to San Antonio with armed with a credential, a much slimmer laptop and an I-Phone that was forced on a graying sportswriter.
In 2003 I didn’t get to go because of the Spurs’ depth. This time I’m going solely because of the way the NBA’s best franchise has kept the old guys together – Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili – and at the same time been able to add enough depth to supplement that core.
I couldn’t pass up a chance to see this gang take one more crack at Miami as the Spurs tried to prevent LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Heat from winning a third straight title.
Rematches have become fairly rare in the NBA Finals, World Series or Super Bowl. It’s hard to get really, really close and climb all the way back to top.
The Spurs don’t have the majority of fans in our part of North Texas. They’re always in the way of Dirk’s Mavericks winning a division or a Western Conference title. They’re a reminder of when Dallas had 12 straight 50-win seasons, the Spurs had more. Dallas had become a great franchise. The Spurs were greater.
But any basketball fan or coach can appreciate the way the Spurs play the game. So as I’m looking forward to covering my fourth NBA Finals and my third involving the spectacular LeBron, I’m honored to get a chance to see this historical group of Hall of Famers from San Antonio try to write another chapter in its history book.
Follow Andy Newberry on Twitter @Andy_Newberry and check timesrecordnews.com for coverage throughout the NBA Finals.