Shawn Marion was pissed. The Mavericks had received their 2011 championship rings only a few hours earlier and Shawn Marion was still pissed. It was only my second time to visit the Dallas Mavericks locker room and Shawn Marion had a massive new championship ring, and he was pissed.
It was that night I learned how much winning and losing meant to Shawn Marion. The Mavericks had received their 2011 championship rings prior to a January 25 game in 2012 against the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves defeated the Mavericks by a score of 105-90 that night and it put more of a damper on the mood in the Mavericks locker room that I anticipated.
Marion respectfully answered all of the questions that came his way, but it was clear that the loss bothered him a great deal. This was just one game in a long season and there was a great deal of celebration prior to the game, but that did not change the fact that the Mavericks had lost and that was something Shawn Marion never accepted.
It made his aggressive, relentless style of play easier to understand. Shawn Marion played to win, and if his team was not victorious, he would be pissed off. Marion was jovial and care free after games in which the Mavericks won, but there we no moral victories to a competitor like him unless Dallas was victorious.
Last week the Dallas Mavericks put the finishing touches on an impressive offseason. Point guard Jameer Nelson and small forward Al-Farouq Aminu joined a Dallas roster that suddenly looks quite formidable in the Western Conference. It’s hard to find a team outside of the Cleveland Cavaliers that had a better offseason than Dallas and fans are now eager for the 2014-15 season to begin.
Somewhat lost in the excitement of the new-look Mavericks is the likelihood that Shawn Marion has played his last game in a Dallas jersey. Not only have the Mavericks used their $2.7 million cap-room exception, they signed another small forward in Aminu. The signing of Chandler Parsons and Aminu makes it all but certain that if Shawn Marion plays basketball next season, it will be in another city.
Shawn Marion has spent the last five seasons in Dallas, changing his game to fit the needs of the Dallas teams he played for. The Mavericks did not need Marion to be the 18.4 points-per-game scorer that he was during his eight seasons with the Phoenix Suns.
Dallas needed Marion, (a four-time All-Star) to bring energy, hustle and defense and that’s what he did for five seasons. It may not have been a glamorous role, but it was a role that suited Shawn Marion well. Anyone that watched Marion play with the Mavericks the last five years can attest to the importance of the role that the Matrix played.
Marion would often cover opposing teams’ small forward or power forward one quarter, then switch to cover the opposing point guard during the late moments of a game. There are not many players that bring that level of defensive versatility to the court.
I spoke briefly with Marion in the Mavericks locker room and I asked him if there were any positions on the court he was not comfortable defending. Evidently there were not, because Marion just smiled and said, “One through five, one through five.”
Nothing highlighted the importance of what Shawn Marion brought to Dallas more than the Mavericks 2011 championship run. The Mavericks asked Marion to be the primary defender against the best perimeter player on each of the teams Dallas faced in the postseason.
The list of stars that Marion defended in the 2011 championship run includes three future Hall-of-Famers in Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. All three superstars become Marion’s responsibility for the majority of the time they shared the court together.
Highlight-worthy dunks and passes are pleasing to the eye, but defense remains half of the game on the court. There is no way the Mavericks bring home the title in 2011 without the contribution that Marion made.
Marion is easily the most underrated player on the 2011 championship team. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry brought the offense and clutch play, Tyson Chandler protected the rim while bringing the emotional leadership, but Shawn Marion’s contributions should not be overlooked.
Shawn Marion has yet to decide if, or where, he will play in 2014-15. His play last season (10.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game) demonstrated that the 36-year-old free agent still has plenty to offer. Regardless of where he ends up or how his career winds down, Marion deserves to remembered in Dallas for leaving it on the court in each and every game he played.
Members of the Mavericks 2011 championship team will certainly be represented in the rafters of the American Airlines Center when Dirk Nowitzki decides to retire from the game of basketball. Hopefully Mark Cuban will make room for the No. 0 that Shawn Marion wore during his tenure in Dallas, because there would be no 2011 championship banner at all without him.