Today is the one-month anniversary of the Mavericks 2011 championship, and we caught up with our friend Jaime Aron, the longtime Mavericks beat-writer who recently updated his book Tales From the Dallas Mavericks Locker Room: A Collection of the Greatest Mavs Stories Ever Told, a book that details the 30-year history of the franchise. Jaime chatted with us about his experiences covering the Mavericks as well as a variety of other topics including Mark Cuban, Jason Kidd, the Dallas Cowboys, Dirk‘s love life, the future of the Mavs, and even Chris Gatling.
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Dime: What were some of the most memorable moments of the championship celebration? Who was it particularly special for?
Jaime Aron: In Dallas, the ovation that Cuban got, and how genuinely dumbstruck he was – he couldn’t speak – he tried to talk and he couldn’t – that just kind of made the applause go even louder. Rick Carlisle kind of diffused the moment and made a very eloquent little speech. What he said to us was something reporters had told us a few days before: He said there is a difference between success and fulfillment.
Earlier in the week he had been talking about J-Kidd and Dirk, guys who had by any stretch of the imagination had successful careers, but winning a championship was fulfillment. That’s really what Cuban was thinking so that kind of broke the ice and allowed Mark to speak. It’s one of those things that, say, the Mavericks go on to win 10 more championships, there’s nothing like the first. That’s what I think made this championship so powerful for so many people. Going back to being in Miami that night that they won it all, the cool factor began even before the game beganâ€”seeing all the longtime fans and employees of the organization who, on their own dime, had flown to Miami because they wanted to be there that night. That was really cool. As the stands were filling up, you saw a lot of the blue t-shirts that Mavs fans had been wearing in the playoffs, and then as the Mavs were taking control of the game, boy they got loud. Maybe that says more about the Miami fans (laughs) that they allowed those guys to count them out.
Dime: Talk a little more about your history with the Mavericks.
JA: Mavericks fans and Dallas sports fans are not the most loyal bunch. It’s a very social – see and be seen type of thing – but these were people who were truly passionate about the Mavericks. I moved to Dallas in 1992, which was really the start of the awful era of the Mavericks, and it coincided with the start of the great era of the Cowboys. I was constantly amazed that whenever there was any sign of hope for the Mavs, the city really responded to them. People really cared about the Mavericks, they totally wanted the Mavericks to succeed. People totally bought into the “Three J’s” (Jason Kidd, Jimmy Jackson and Jamal Mashburn) When they broke those guys up, whatever faint hope there was – whether it was the hiring of Quinn Buckner, no matter how much a disaster that was, or the hiring of Jim Cleamons (who was Phil Jackson‘s right-hand man) or bringing in Nellie. It didn’t matter what it was, people came out to see it and people were really stoked about it, this is when the Mavericks were going to turn it around, and that always really struck me.
Dime: Jason Kidd. You’ve seen him now in two different eras of Mavericks history. What changed from Kidd’s first stint in Dallas to his second?
JA: Well I’ll pose the question back to you, I don’t know how old you are but I know that I’m a lot different than I was when I was 23 and when I was 38 (laughs.) I think with him it really is a classic case of a guy who has made up for his physical deficiencies with his savvy. I count myself as the average basketball fan who doesn’t really appreciate ALL the little things that he does. I mean in moments of truth, all the guys I talk to say J-Kidd does all the little things that drive them, that fire them up…that he says the right things in the huddle and takes over at certain moments. As much as Dirk and Terry are the closers from a scoring perspective, I think Kidd really takes over the leadership when it’s needed. I really don’t appreciate all the little things that he does, but everyone raves about it. Not just when the cameras are on or the microphones are in his face, he’s really the backbone of the team, and that certainly wasn’t the case before. What went wrong before was that it was a power-shift struggle. He wanted to be in control – not because he knew what to do in control – just because he thought that was the thing to do.
Dime: And being from the New York area, we got a chance to watch a lot of Kidd playing for the Nets. How was his era with the Nets different than this current one?
JA: The thing about the New Jersey Jason Kidd is that he was in the prime of his career. He could score a lot. His team needed him to score. Kind of like Dirk now, just by his mere stature, he was supposed to be the leader. But now at 38 years old, he’s not necessarily supposed to be that guy anymore. Yet, that’s what’s so impressive, was that he was. The only older starter on a championship team was Kareem, and I’m not even so sure he was the leader of his team. I think that lack of a championship has driven Kidd. It’s what’s kept him going and kept him hungry. I write about the Cowboys a lot, and I’ve also written a book about their first championship, and how long it took them to get over the hurdle after a lot of near misses. And what kept them at a high level, was the lack of that first championship. I think it’s the same thing with these Mavericks. I think the Mavericks would have blown it up and started over, if they hadn’t just remained a perennial 50-win contender with this uncrowned superstar, in Dirk.