A sure-fire Hall of Famer, Nowitzki appeared well on his way to an NBA title in 2006 but watched a 2-0 series lead in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat quickly disappear. The following year, the Mavs cruised, he won the MVP but was more disappointed than ever.
Dirk Nowitzki recalls being ‘super frustrated’ after the 2006 NBA Finals
The Mavericks were one of three NBA teams to crack the 60-win total during the 2005-06 season, yet they still finished in second place in the Southwest Division. The San Antonio Spurs won the division with 63 games, and the two teams met in the Western Conference Semifinals. Dallas outlasted them in seven games, defeated the Phoenix Suns, and faced the Heat.
With homecourt advantage, the Mavericks won the first two games against LeBron James and the Heat. The Mavs appeared to be on their way to a championship. The Heat, however, bounced back to win four straight, including two nail-biters, crushing Nowitzki and the Mavs.
Nowitzki recently spoke about the heartbreak from that series.
“In ’06, I was super frustrated after Miami came back on us,” Nowitzki said recently on The Ryen Russillo Podcast. “But, you know what, I felt like I was just getting into my prime. I felt like I was playing some of my best basketball.
“I’m thinking we’re going to be there every year now. We got this. We’re a good team. I can carry the team there. I felt good about where we were as a franchise.”
Dirk Nowitzki was named MVP the following year, but major disappointment took over
Nowitzki was right. The Mavs were good. He was a qualified leader. The future was bright.
During the 2006-07 season, Nowitzki and the Mavs had an .817 winning percentage during the regular season, leading the league with a 67-15 record. This time, they finished nine games ahead of the Spurs.
Nowitzki averaged 24.6 points and 8.9 rebounds in the regular season. He shot better than 50% from the floor and 41.6% from 3-point land. The seven-footer earned his lone MVP honor.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Mavs were matched up against the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors. The Warriors pulled off the stunning upset, and it wasn’t even close. Golden State closed out the series in six games, shocking the NBA world.
“We followed up with an unbelievable season in ’06-’07, which was my MVP year,” Nowitzki said. “We won 67 games, were the number one seed, getting ready to roll. Had the Spurs’ number that year, beat them three out of four, which was our biggest rival. We felt good about that. I’m thinking in my head, this is our year.
“We run into this buzzsaw of a hot Warriors team, who had coach Nelson, who was our coach, and he knew exactly all of our weaknesses and my weaknesses. He exploited all of them. We ended up losing to the Warriors in the first round.
“I gotta say that year I was more disappointed than losing in the Finals in ’06 because I had such high hopes.”
Nowitzki said he didn’t leave his house for two weeks after getting eliminated by the Warriors
The loss to the Warriors was a crushing blow to the Mavericks. Nowitzki took the unexpected playoff exit to heart. It affected him personally long after the final buzzer.
“We were the team to beat,” he said on the podcast. “I gotta say I didn’t leave my house for about two weeks. I felt like I let my team down and I felt like I let the city down, the franchise. That was probably as frustrated as I was in my career. Disappointed, just a gut punch.
“That took me a while to get over. That ’06, like I said, I was ok, like we’ll be here every year now, but the ’07 year really ripped my heart out. That took me a while to recover. I wanted to leave town as soon as possible, get away as far as possible.”
The problem was he couldn’t go anywhere.
“The NBA called and said you gotta stick around. There’s actually a chance you could win the MVP,” he said. “I was like, I don’t even want it. Just keep this thing. I’m so embarrassed.
“So then I had to stick around 10 days, two weeks in Dallas to wait. As you remember, back in the days, they presented the MVP trophy during the second round, the middle of the second round, so I had to wait.”
Nowitzki said he dreaded the MVP press conference, but he was finally able to leave after reluctantly accepting the award.
“Man, that was a super, super tough summer,” he said.