Blake Griffin emerged as a new superstar for the Los Angeles Clippers and the Chicago Bulls stepped out of Michael Jordan's shadow.
Dallas Mavericks dished up some class in 2010/11 NBA
So much youth and excitement, so much potential. As the NBA season approached, the league was aflutter over the superstars brought together in Miami, and the unbridled talent blossoming in Oklahoma City.
Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers bought some hair dye and prepared to meet again in the NBA Finals. Veterans hardened by the battles, ready to squeeze one more championship run out ageing rosters.
Only when it was over, it was not the new Miami Heat, the young Oklahoma City Thunder nor the Lakers or Celtics who were left standing, though it was an old team — in fact, the NBA's oldest.
The Dallas Mavericks, those perennial play-off burn outs, flamed brightest. They shocked the Lakers with a play-off sweep, brushed aside the Thunder and then overran the Heat to become the NBA champions.
The Mavs were led by the unique talents of Dirk Nowitzki, a 13-year veteran who turns 33 next week, and was called by one writer "the most awkwardly graceful star the sport's ever seen".
And then there was Jason Kidd, 38, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, both 33, and Peja Stojakovic, who turned 34 during the Finals.
Too old, too slow? No, just too good.
"It wasn't about our high-flying star power," Rick Carlisle, the Mavericks coach, said. "Come on, how often do we have to hear about the LeBron James Reality Show? When are people going to talk about the purity of the game and what these guys accomplished?"
The championship run of the Mavs capped a season that took unexpected twists and turns, tried to avoid the shroud of a looming lockout and announced the arrival of a new superstar in Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Along the way, the Chicago Bulls finally emerged from the Michael Jordan shadow to become legitimate title contenders. Derrick Rose went from promising player to MVP of the league.
Much of the midseason was spent wondering where Carmelo Anthony would be dealt by Denver. In a possible prelude to Orlando's Dwight Howard next season, Anthony's unwillingness to sign an extension forced the Nuggets to trade him to the New York Knicks. Then, in one of the season's most surprising turns, the Nuggets played better without him.
After consecutive NBA titles, the Lakers went out meekly. Their season never gained its focus, leading to a play-off sweep at the hands of Dallas. Which takes us back to the Mavs and Nowitzki.
"He's worked very hard, for a very long time and he deserves it," Chris Bosh, the Heat forward, said of Nowitzki. For the young and talented, lessons to be learnt.
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