I like to watch old basketball games in my free time. I like watching greats like Bird and Magic, not necessarily because I love basketball that much, but so I can answer “yes” in a heated basketball debate when someone pulls the “have you even seen him play?” card.
So I’ve been watching a few games from the 2006 NBA Finals, including the infamous Game 3 that might have cost Dirk and his friends a championship, and I have a lot of thoughts that I would like to share. I started following the NBA halfheartedly two or three seasons before this one, and I didn’t have a lot of mental NBA footage to form any strong opinions on basketball.
Dirk Nowitzki of 2011 is a much better player than 2006 Dirk. Not a very bold statement, but this is one of those physical versus mental things. I wish I had the time and effort to splice out clips with Dirk taking slightly ill-advised shots, but watch a few games and you can see what I’m talking about. 2006 Dirk was more of a “I am very skilled, and I will make this shot based on my skill” type of guy while 2011 Dirk is more of a “Give me the rock and I will find a way to score” type of guy. The current Kevin Durant is in a similar phase of basketball as the 2006 Dirk Nowitzki, so KD has a lot of room to grow. Nowitzki’s fadeaway might have been unstoppable even back in 06, but he never used it enough and never in the right situations.
The veterans on the 2006 Heat team were anything but washed up. Jason Williams was amazingly fun to watch, and I am surprised that Pat Riley gave him that much freedom. I was always under some impression that 2006 Shaq was no good but the 2006 Shaq was a much better offensive player than the current Dwight Howard. He was very skilled and was as good a passer as any big man (except for those Brad Miller/Vlade Divac guys). He was a little slower and lazier on the glass in 06, but offensively, 2006 Shaq>2011 Dwight Howard… Which is quite sad.
It’s funny how a lot of the guys in this series are nowhere close to NBA contributors these days. Josh Howard came into the league the same year as Bron and Wade, but he’s kind of an NBA scrub now. It’s also pretty funny that Dampier was in both of these series but on different teams… and lost both times.
People always dramatize stuff, especially with superstars. “Kobe never passes,” “LeBron always travels/chokes/lets his mom sleep with his teammates,” etc., but 06 Wade really deserves that “D-Whistle” nickname. Referees should have held back a bit on the whistle blowing but it wasn’t like Wade was getting phantom fouls. There was some slightly iffy officiating at the end of pivotal games, but it wasn’t some 2002 Kings/Lakers travesty.
On the topic of Dwyane Wade, Miami completely lucked out with the Wade selection. I looked at the archives of some Heat forums and there were a lot of guys that wanted Bosh (heck some wanted Maciej Lampe) and people were all for a foundation of Butler/Bosh of Butler/Lampe going forward. It’s insane that Wade became that good. I’m watching this series and I forget that this was only Wade’s third year in the league. Third year Kevin Durant is nowhere close to third year Wade, especially in the playoffs. 2006 Dwyane Wade is equivalent to Magic Johnson stepping in for Kareem and hitting the Junior Junior Skyhook. It’s like Michael Jordan disguised as Dwyane Wade.
Did I say Jason Williams was so fun to watch?