I feel this gets spread around a lot because there’s a lot of negative anti-Lebron stuff spreading on social media all the time, but I think the 2011 Mavericks need to be re-evaluated. They were a lot better than people think.
-Had a great coach in Rick Carlisle
-Had one all star on the team that year (Dirk)
-Won 57 games in the stronger Western conference (compared to 58 for the Heat in the weaker conference)
-Beat the Trail Blazers in 6 in the first round
-Swept the defending Laker champions in the second round
-Beat the OKC big 3 in 5 games in the Semifinals
-Led by HoFer Dirk Nowitzki, but had solid players like HoFer Jason Kidd, Jason Terry (part of the 18k point club), former all star Shawn Marion, future DPOY Tyson Chandler, and former all star Peja Stojakovich coming off the bench. All these guys were still solid, they might have been “old” but that didn’t mean they were washed up, because as we know different players age differently (Steve Nash and Kyle Lowry for example didn’t start their prime until they were 29). Old does not automatically mean less productive.
And of course, beat the Miami Heat Big 3 in 6 games.
2011 Heat had an inexperienced coach in Eric Spoelstra (he would get better of course as we saw in last years Finals, but back then he was inexperienced), had a roster that was playing together for the first time and was top heavy consisting of Bron, Wade and Bosh but their bench wasn’t as deep as the Mavs bench.
Of course it was still an upset, and everyone talks about Lebron choking when he ‘only’ averaged 18 / 7 / 7 in the Finals on 48% shooting. But everyone thinks this was one of the biggest upsets in NBA history, which it really wasn’t, when you look at the 2011 Mavs, which had a bunch of veteran guys playing in a stronger conference with stronger chemistry with each other, up against a younger inexperienced ‘superteam’.
No one really talks about the 2004 Pistons beating the 2004 Lakers as a huge upset anymore, and it really was a bigger upset than the 2011 Mavs beating the Heat. Let’s take a look:
-Had a great coach in Larry Brown
-Had one all star on the team that year (Ben Wallace)
-Won 54 games in the weaker Eastern conference (compared to 56 for the Lakers in the stronger Western conference)
-Beat the Bucks in 5 games in the first round
-Beat the Nets in 7 games in the second round
-Beat the Pacers in 6 games in the Semifinals
-Led by a group of solid players who were all stars – Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace, but none of them were surefire HoF level players and indeed, none of them are in the HoF right now.
And of course, beat the Lakers newly formed ‘superteam’ in 5 games.
The 2004 Lakers, like the 2011 Heat, was also kind of a newly formed team, but Shaq and Kobe had won championships together already, and Derek Fisher himself has said that this was the most humiliating defeat of his career. Malone was injured in the Finals sure, but Shaq was still putting up 27/11 on 63% shooting in the Finals. Ben Wallace wasn’t stopping him. The reason why the Lakers lost that year is because of one Kobe Bryant, who put up 23 / 3 / 4 on a horrible 38% shooting that series. He tried forcing himself to be the main player when he should have been deferring to Shaq. But, no one talks about Kobe choking in this series at all, and instead talk about how great the Pistons were, especially their defense. And they had a Hall of Fame coach in Phil Jackson.
The 2004 Pistons had a tougher time getting past their opponents in the weaker conference (the entire 2000s had a weak East with teams like the 76ers, Nets and Magic reaching the Finals) compared to the2011 Mavs cruising through the playoffs in the stronger conference. They didn’t have any players who we would consider Hall of Famer level compared to the 2 HoFers who were on the 2011 Mavs. They beat supposedly the greatest duo ever in Kobe and Shaq, along with two other HoFers (Malone and Payton) in less games (Mavs needed 6 to beat the Heat). They beat a team with a better coach, whereas the Mavs had the stronger coach in 2011.
Why don’t people consider the 2004 Pistons to be the bigger upset? Why does everyone talk about the 2011 Mavs? Why do people always say that Lebron choked in the 2011 Finals but don’t say a word about Kobe choking in the 2004 Finals? All the evidence points to the 2011 Mavericks being a better team than the 2004 Pistons and the 2004 Lakers being a better team than the 2011 Heat. And yet the Mavs beating the Heat is constantly talked about and Lebron’s performance constantly criticized when by any other player’s standards, averaging 18/7/7 in the Finals on 48% FG% is hardly ‘choking’.