MIAMI -- The team beat the stars. And that team is now the NBA champion.
The Dallas Mavericks were the ultimate example of the sum of a group being better than its parts, getting contributions from across the board to close out the Miami Heat and claim the franchise's first title with Sunday night's 105-95 triumph in Game 6.
While the popular storyline coming into the series was the opportunity to get revenge for 2006, only two Mavericks remain from that team, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry. The 13 new guys on coach Rick Carlisle's roster weren't part of that meltdown -- and neither was Carlisle -- but many of them were huge in Game 6, throughout the playoffs and the entire season.
"All season," said Terry, a Game 6 hero with 27 points. "If you look at what we've built here, give credit to coach Carlisle. In training camp, he told everybody to be ready.
"Brian Cardinal. J.J. Barea inserted into the starting lineup in the Finals. Are you kidding me? Just gutsy by coach, no fear at all and every confidence in his guys. Ian Mahinmi and just on down the line."
Nowitzki walked away with a well-deserved the Finals MVP, but once again the little plays made by the supporting cast added up. Dallas' bench outscored the Heat's 43-20 in the clincher.
Barea took a charge from LeBron James and Cardinal did the same from Dwyane Wade. The drives that weren't falling for Barea early in the series started to fall in the last few games. Cardinal wasn't about to give up a layup if he was in the lane.
Mahinmi needed to get a feel for the playoffs, much less the Finals, early in the series. His eight-minute stint in Game 3 was forgettable due to five fouls, but it allowed him to get his sea legs with backup center Brendan Haywood limited by a hip injury.
"I got in early foul trouble, Ian Mahinmi came in and stepped up," starting center Tyson Chandler said. "Brendan Haywood got hurt in this series. We've been a team. It's not about individuals. Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry have been our catalysts all season, but that being said, we're a team. We're able to lean on them, but they're able to lean on us in a time in need."
"What you mean? We've got superstars on this team," Marion joked. "We've got one, two, three, we're all superstars."
Carlisle attempted to put what the Mavs accomplished as a team in perspective.
"This is one of the really unique teams," he said. "This is my opinion now. This is one of the unique teams in NBA history, because it wasn't about high-flying star power. Come on, how often do we have to hear about the LeBron James reality show and what he is or isn't doing?
"When are people going to talk about the purity of our game and what these guys accomplished? That's what's special. And I played with Larry Bird. I played with Bill Walton. I played with Robert Parish. I played with Dennis Johnson. I played with the all-time greats. And Dirk is up there with that upper, upper echelon of great players."
And the rest of the Mavs are champions, too.