We often talk about the power of dreams, but what about the power of nightmares? To ask Jason Terry is to come away believing that those nightmares provide a greater sense of purpose.
Why is Terry such an expert on dreams? Because he has lots of them. Dreams of winning an NBA Championship and then the nightmares that followed when he and the Mavs were unable to get the job done in 2006 against the Miami Heat.
Terry told ESPN’s Marc Stein that their collapse in 2006 is still very much with him.
“Everyone,” Terry said, “knows what this next step means.” “Everybody knows when you wear a Dallas Mavericks uniform, certain things come along with it,” Terry continued. “… As long as you keep talking about [the last Miami series], it’s going to hang over us. Me, Dirk, Mark Cuban, [assistant coach] Darrell Armstrong, we sleep with it every night.”
Terry not only sleeps with memories of that failed championship run, he sees a reminder every day when he looks into the mirror and catches a glimpse of the Larry O’Brien Trophy tattoo, which he got before the season on the inside of his right bicep.
The goal is a championship. After Caron Butler went down it was still a championship. During the mini-stumbles of the regular season it was still a championship. When everyone focused on the Lakers and said they were the team to beat, the Mavs shut out all of the noise from the outside and focused on what they knew: that they believed it was their year.
And they’ve made it their year. With Terry doing his thing off the bench, role players playing above and beyond their roles (word to J.J. Barea), Shawn Marion seeming to come up big whenever his team needs him, Jason Kidd schooling all of the players who grew up watching him, Dirk proving why he’s one of the most special players to ever play the game.
The Mavericks have made it to the Finals. One step closer to righting that wrong that’s been with them for the past five years, they are four victories away from silencing those demons and doubters. They’ll take on the Miami Heat. Would it have felt as right if it had been another team standing between them and the trophy? Perhaps, but that’s something we’ll never know because it is the Heat that the Mavs will face. While both teams look dramatically different, for Terry, Dirk and company, it’s time to finish the business they couldn’t take care of the first time around.
If those memories haunted the Mavs before, they’ll be living them out in color when the Finals kick off next Tuesday. The Heat have looked unstoppable whenever they’ve decided they wanted to win during these playoffs, but the Mavs have been reliable and steady. Predictably solid. Deep. Experienced. Focused and hungry.
While Miami has won with sheer power and strength as well as star power, the Mavs have done things the way we’re used to. They’ve built up their team over time, grown together, stumbled and struggled together and now feel ready to triumph together. The Heat have been the exact opposite, expecting instant success and being talented enough to make that a viable possibility.
When you talk to Terry, he speaks with bravado and with fire, but also with the deep thoughts and honesty that so many athletes keep inside. For Terry to talk about those nightmares from 2006, he’s putting them out there, giving himself even more motivation to get to hoist that trophy this season. To free himself of the demons of ’06 to give Nowitzki and Kidd a reason to get fitted for new jewelry, to prevent the Heat from beginning their seemingly inevitable reign.
There are a lot of storylines in this Finals match up. A lot of dreams on the line. Losing to the Miami Heat again, five years later, seems too painful. Too bitter. To defeat the franchise that denied you the first time around, to stop their three stars and to prove that patience and persistence mean something in professional sports? That would be the story that dreams are made of. It’s that story that Terry wants to tell.