Former Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki earned NBA Finals MVP honors in 2011, with his apparent hatred of the Miami Heat, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at the time helping him lead the Mavericks to a six-game finals win over the Heat.
Nowitzki’s former teammate J.J. Barea appeared on the Old Man and the Three and recalled (at the 39-second mark) how focused Nowitzki was during the entire 2010-11 season.
Barea also noted that after James and Wade insulted Nowitzki during the finals, that passion to knock off the Heat became the veteran’s mission.
“He was not going to let us lose,” Barea said. “The way he prepared the whole year for it. He hated Miami, he hated LeBron, Wade, Bosh.
“He’s never going to say that, but he couldn’t stand it. He got ready for it, and that year, he don’t talk much. Dirk, if you know him, he leads by example. He don’t lead by talking, but that year in timeouts, and that year before the games, at halftime, he would talk, and he would talk loud, and he’ll point fingers, and he was on one.
“He was special. He had a different mindset that year. He was tougher. He was driving the ball more for some reason. He was either pump-faking and driving left. But when LeBron and Wade started making fun of him by coughing when he got a little sick…that clip really hurt him. He will never say it, but he really saw the tape, and that tape really hurt him, and that gave him a little bit extra that he didn’t need, but it gave him a little extra to finish them off.”
Entering the 2010-11 season, the Heat became the team to hate within the NBA after acquiring both James and Bosh in free agency for what was thought to be an unbeatable team.
The Heat entered the 2011 NBA Finals as the favorites, but after taking a 2-1 lead in the series, they dropped three straight games. That slide was cause for celebration across much of the NBA, but the Heat did bounce back in 2012 and 2013 to win consecutive league titles.
Nowitzki ended up playing 21 seasons, all of them with the Mavericks. That 2011 finals win would be the only time that he would be part of an NBA championship squad, but achieving that goal was even sweeter, given the animosity that was driving him.