Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Mavericks: Reliving Dirk Nowitzki/Steve Nash Memories

About five hours before the Dallas Mavericks played the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, I did some YouTube searching.

There are days where revisiting the golden years of the early-2000s Mavs is a necessity. Although those teams didn’t know how to play defense under Don Nelson, they were always exciting to watch.

And it was always the original Big Three leading the charge: Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley and Steve Nash.

The greatest achievement the three ever made, however, was always this.

All right, maybe that’s not it. But it feels like eons ago where the three of them were on the court together. Between the number of playoff memories — like beating the Sacramento Kings for the first time in 2003 — to the heartbreaking defeats, those three are always known as the first Big Three before there was any other.

Finley has been long gone, having been retired since 2010. For the last few years, it’s been Nash and Nowitzki — knowing that once one of those two retired, it would signal the end of an era.

We may have reached that point.

There’s a good chance Friday was Nash’s last game in the NBA. Injuries have hampered his ability to stay on the court, and the 40-year-old two-time MVP will soon enter the final year of his three-year deal with the Lakers. And Friday was a perfect example with how far the two have come in the last few years.

Nash: 19 minutes, four points, seven assists.

Nowitzki: 27 points (11-of-14), nine rebounds, five assists.

Dallas is fighting for a playoff spot. Los Angeles is in position for the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.

Times have changed. And so has an era.

The league won’t be the same without Nash. His best years have been behind him. They were left in Phoenix and Dallas.

Especially in Dallas.

It’s a shame that Nash will go down as one of the greatest players of all time never to win an NBA championship. That was the hope when he was traded to the Lakers to play with Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard.

In hindsight, as painful as it sounds, not bringing back Nash to Dallas in the summer of 2012 was the right idea. It would have been nice to see Nash and Dirk go for a ring one more time, with Finley now working in the front office with Mark Cuban.

What if? Seriously, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Nash and Dirk have always been best friends. Off the court, they were inseparable.  A free agent fresh from Phoenix and a kid from Germany coming together, not knowing how long they would play together nor what they would accomplish at that time.

Don Nelson took a big risk putting them on the floor together.

It turned out to be the best decision ever.

For six years, the Mavs were the most exciting team not playing in Los Angeles. They were a perennial playoff threat every year, and if not for an injury to Dirk in the 2003 Western Conference Finals, we would’ve seen a parade in Dallas that year.  The Mavs were that good.

2003 was the best year with Nash and Nowitzki in Dallas. The Mavs started 14-0 that season, and finished 60-22 as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.

After disposing Portland in seven games, Dallas had a conference semifinals matchup with the Sacramento Kings — a team that Nash or Dirk never got past. It became one of the best seven-game series of all-time.

Featuring games like this one.

That game never gets old. And it looked like that Dirk and Steve were well on their way to getting to the NBA Finals for the first time ever, but then Dirk got hurt in Game 2 of the conference finals against San Antonio.

That would be the only real chance the two would have to win a championship, and it never happened.

What if? Again, it never hurts to ask.

Even though there’s a good chance, if Nash did come back to Dallas, we’d never get these highlights again.

Those years are ones Mavs fans will never get back, and would more than likely take them back every time. Talk about a stacked Western Conference, those years always had the same teams atop the standings. It was always Dallas, San Antonio, Sacramento, the Lakers, the end of the glory years of Utah, and Seattle.

Those teams, that era, was one of the best in the NBA.

And yet, the underrated duo of Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash were right in the middle of it all.

I mentioned a couple weeks back that it will be a sad day when Dirk retires.

It’ll be equally as sad when Steve Nash does. Everything he did for Dirk, the Mavs organization and the Dallas area could never be duplicated. There may never have been an NBA Finals MVP named Dirk Nowitzki had it not been for Steve Nash.

And when Nash takes his rightful place in the Hall of Fame, it’ll more than likely be Nowitzki right next to him. And vice versa.

Just like it always has been.


You can find Danny Webster on Twitter @DannyWebster21.

Tags: Dallas Mavericks

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