Mavericks return to NBA Finals
By Keith Antigiovanni
The Dallas Mavericks 100-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games will mark the second time in five years that the Mavericks will be in the NBA Finals but in its' 31-year history the franchise has strongly resembled the NBA's version of roller-coaster ride.
The Mavs' began as an expansion club in the 1980-1981 season and hired proven winner Dick Motta to pilot their team while they played their home games in the new Reunion Arena. Motta had previously won the 1978 NBA title and made another finals appearance in 1979. During the first three seasons the expansion Mavs took their lumps and posted a 81-165 record.
1983-1984 was Dallas' breakout year when the club made its' first playoff appearance. In 1986-1987 Motta led the Mavs' to its best season to date with a 55-27 record and a division title but was dismissed after a first round playoff exit to Seattle. The Mavericks became a perennial playoff contender for the rest of the 1980's which were highlighted by an appearance in the 1988 Western Conference Finals. The Mavericks fell to the "showtime" Lakers in 7 games but appeared to be a team on the rise. Unfortunately they regressed back to "expansion" status in 1990-1991 and became one of the league's bottom feeders during the 1990's with an overall record of 239-581. The club even tried to bring Motta back to help but he stayed only two years before another coaching change.
The Mavericks appeared to be headed for the "scrap-heap" of sports franchises' until their fortunes began to change during the 1998 NBA Draft when Coach Don Nelson traded for a German Power Forward Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki got off to a slow start in his first two seasons under Coach Don Nelson as the young Mavs' began to look towards the future and become a contender in the 2000's.
Dallas' fortunes changed again on 1/4/2000 when Billionaire entreprenuer Mark Cuban bought the majority ownership of the club from Ross Perot Jr. In 2000-2001 the Mark Cuban returned to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years and advanced to the second round.
Under Cuban's ownership the Mavericks (2000-present) have the second best winning percentage in the NBA (620-282) behind the Southwest division and in-state rival San Antonio Spurs (634-366). The Mavs' have also made the playoffs 11 straight years, won or tied for the division three times (2003, 2007, 2010) and reached the Western Conference Finals three times (2003, 2006, 2011) but the crowning achievement for the franchise will be an NBA Championship in 2011.
The Mavs' now await their opponent in the Finals.