Bad Bromance: The 2011 NBA Year In Review, Part 1

The 2011 NBA Year In Review

It should have been the dumbest tattoo ever inked. Or at least since Mike Tyson went tribal on his left eye. Seasoned shooting guard Jason Terry got carried away during a Mavericks team powwow at DeShawn Stevenson’s pad last October. The whole team was there, Stevenson’s personal tattoo artist as well.

Terry wanted to pump up the boys. But the usual Us Vs. The World rah-rah wasn’t cutting it this time. Not with Kobe, Phil and the Lakers gunning for another three-peat. Not with the Thunder a year older. And not with the Big Two & A Half already shopping ring insets down in South Beach.

So Jason Terry had the Larry O’Brien trophy emblazoned to his right bicep. Right then and there. He would have the tattoo removed if the Mavericks fell short. He would have to, the league smirked. Because this was the Dallas Mavericks. The Buffalo Bills of the NBA. The proverbial one-and-done team that always followed the same script: Dirk put up his 24 points a night, they’d win 50-something games, lock up a four or five seed in the West, and bow out early to some young upstart like the Blazers or the Grizzlies.

Jason Terry Championship Trophy Tattoo

It should have been the dumbest guarantee ever uttered. Or at least since Mike Tyson called himself a “semi-good husband”. Jason Terry vowed LeBron James could not guard him for seven games.

LeBron James was en fuego. He lumbered into the NBA Finals a conquering hero. He clubbed Philly, slayed his nemesis Boston, and sliced and diced the top-seeded Chicago. All in five games. And it wasn’t simply the brevity. It was the rim-rocking ferocity. Three playoff rounds so bludgeoning that Scottie Pippen tweeted LeBron could be the “greatest player to ever play the game.” Better even than a certain teammate of his.

At long last LeBron James had come into his own. A little longer than we expected, perhaps. And not in the uniform we wanted, certainly. But, at age 26, King James was ready for the throne: a fearsome blend of athleticism, savant hoop vision, and, now, the Jordanian killer instinct.

Then there was Jason Terry. A sidekick. A grizzled veteran on a hodgepodge Dallas Mavericks team full of them. The superstitious sort, he wears five pairs of socks a game. Terry had had a solid postseason to date. He even drained nine threes against the Lakers once, but, at the end of the day, he was still… Jason Terry. The most playoff pain Jason Terry inflicted was when he once punched a San Antonio Spur in the groin.

But Jason Terry was right. LeBron James did not last seven games. He fizzled out in six.

It is ironic—or perhaps fitting—that a prematurely-tattooed, groin-punching Sixth Man prophesied the NBA’s most capricious, supped-up season in a generation. It was a ratings-shattering NBA year capped by The Decision and followed by a year of other ill-advised ones. Shaq had a sex tape before it was mercifully taped over. Allen Iverson now answers to the Besiktas in Turkey; Stephon Marbury to the Foshan Dralions in China. Orlando traded for Gilbert Arenas. And Tony Parker cheated on Eva Longoria. With a teammate’s wife.

T’was a season of the improbable. Darko Milicic—the Serbian 7 footer drafted after LeBron, before Carmelo, DWade, and Chris Bosh—was freed in the Minnesota hinterlands and even cracked the top five with two blocks a game. Zach Randolph looked—dare we say—graceful in dispatching the top-seeded Spurs in round one of the playoffs. Second year rookie Blake Griffin brought national exposure to a) the Los Angeles Clippers, and b) even more miraculously, the Kia Optima.

Blake Griffen Slam Dunk Over Kia Car

The New Jersey Nets won 24 games. Yet—in a mystery baffling men and scientists everywhere—Maria Sharapova is engaged to Sasha Vujacic; Kim Kardashian, to Kris Humphries, a guy who averaged 10 points a game.

But, in the end, the 2011 NBA season was a morality play on the hardwood. What started with the breathlessly bally-hooed Summer of LeBron culminated with gritty Dirk’s Redemption this spring. Dirk Nowitzki endured a torn tendon in his finger, a 104 degree fever, the “childish” slights of LeBron and DWade, and the Ghosts of 2006 to secure his legacy as one of the all-time greats.

LeBron James, meanwhile, met his comeuppances at the hands of the NBA Gods, hubris, and a stingy Mavs’ zone defense. Cleveland meant The Chosen 1 could not win one with the hand he was dealt. Miami: Year 1 meant The Chosen 1 could not win one with the stacked deck he picked either.

The 2010-2011 Miami Heat were the stuff of NBA2k11 video game dynasty mode. In pixels, an unstoppable, high-octane offense. In real life, an unbalanced roster with no real point guard or bench exposed under the Finals’ glaring spotlight.

The Miami Heat were all Hollywood. And the league loathed them for it. With questionably cast A-listers, scintillating storylines, a few sparkling explosions, but nothing to hold it all together, the Miami Heat smacked of another Michael Bay movie bust.

The Dallas Mavericks, meanwhile, were the Disney story. A G-rated, feel-good tale where the long-maligned nice guy finally wins with a little help from his friends. This hero was not a panda adept in kung-fu or a talking race car but a scraggly, bearded 7-footer named Dirk with a fall-away jumpshot fine-tuned by the best of German engineering. He led a motley crew of castoffs, aged parts, plus a breakout 5 foot-something backup point guard. And they were all cobbled together by a chastened tech billionaire who finally behaved…. for a while anyway…


The Different, New Spurs?: Manu Ginobili insists he saw a UFO while boarding the team bus. And Tony Parker cheated on Eva Longoria with Brent Barry’s wife.

The San Antonio Spurs were not supposed to be entertaining. Time was they were the dullest, ho-hum pseudo-dynasty in NBA history. They won the odd-numbered years. Tim Duncan netted 20-12. And the networks cringed at the playoff TV ratings as the Spurs lulled us to sleep with their transition defense.

But something bizarre happened in 2010-2011. The ancient, banged-up San Antonio Spurs became… interesting. And better than ever. The Spurs flirted with 70 wins. They steam-rolled along to the top-seed in the West. Before something even more bizarre happened.

The San Antonio Spurs collapsed. Tim Duncan’s creaky ankle gave way, for starters. Then they were outclassed and outplayed by reformed Jail Blazer Zach Randolph and the Memphis Grizzlies. And the top-seeded Spurs were upset in the first round.

Perhaps now the cosmic balance will be restored. The Spurs will grow tedious again. They will pluck up some unheralded foreign player late in the NBA draft. And perhaps the answers will trickle in for this most inexplicable of Spurs’ seasons. The case of Manu Ginobili’s UFO sighting was solved: a squad of energy drink Red Bull skydivers. Why Tony Parker cheated on Eva Longoria, however, will befuddle historians to the end of time.

Failed Marketing Promotion Of The Year: The Detroit Pistons offered fifty free season tickets to fans who promised to attend every home game. Eleven fans signed up. Eleven.

Debut Of The Year: Washington Wizards rookie John Wall for teaching us all how to Dougie (RIP)

Video Game Tweak Of The Year: NBA2k11 dropped Tony Parker’s player royalty rating from 87 to 0 after the Frenchman cheated on Eva Longoria with a teammate’s wife.

Tweet Of The Year: One day before The Decision…

Kevin Durant Tweets Staying With OKC

And Finally, An Ode To Shaq: For 19 years, 28,596 points, 4 rings, 2 satisfied Kazaam viewers, and 1 sincere send-off to Vlade Divac.


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