RJP: Dallas Mavericks

Headin' West, Cowboy

Curtis M. Harris

The Retired Jersey Project is now in the Western Conference! (Read this if you need to catch up on the rules.)

First up for the West are the Dallas Mavericks. The NBA’s 1980 expansion team that unbalanced the conferences for the next quarter-century, the Mavs were an exemplar of expansion success. In their first season they won 15 games. By 1988 they had come within one game of reaching the NBA Finals as they fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference. Then came a big ole stretch of suck in the 1990s before Dirk Nowitzki anchored two decades of glory with a championship in 2011 serving as the crown jewel.

The Mavericks have three retired jerseys and a de facto retired jersey:

  • #12 Derek Harper

  • #15 Brad Davis

  • #22 Rolando Blackman

  • #41 Dirk Nowitzki (there’s no doubt he’ll have his jersey retired, so we’re not even going to bother with Dirk in this article)

Today, I humbly suggest adding three players to that there list.

As usual, stats and info listed here pertain to a player’s time with the relevant franchises.

Jerseys to Retire

#4 Michael Finley (1996-2005)

2x All-Star

Nowitzki ultimately became the anchor of Dallas’s 15 playoff appearances in 16 seasons, but the franchise’s return to legitimacy really began with Michael Finley. Before Dirk, before Nellie, before Cuban, Finley was the on-court instigator for success. The second-year player was the centerpiece haul for Dallas when they traded Jason Kidd to the Phoenix Suns in December 1996. Dealing away Kidd was admission that Triple J era of the mid-90s had finally crashed and burned.

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Better times lay ahead for Dallas, though. Beginning the next season, Finley averaged at least 20 PPG for five straight seasons while plopping on another two campaigns approaching the figure (19.3 PPG in 2003 and 18.6 PPG in 2004). Impressively, Finley also led the NBA in minutes per game three times in four seasons. The only “dud” in the stretch was 41.0 MPG in 1999.

He was a tireless workhorse, a ferocious dunker, solid on defense, and the sort of figure that was needed to turn the sorry franchise around. During his first season the Mavs won just 24 games. During his final Dallas season in 2005, the team hung 58 wins. The only sour note is that he never got a ring with Mavs. At least did get the hardware with San Antonio in 2007.

#24 Mark Aguirre (1981-1989)

3x All-Star

Yeah, he was kind of an asshole. But along with Rolando Blackman, Mark Aguirre was the franchise’s first star and got them oh so close to the NBA Finals in 1988.

The Chicogoan’s forte was being one of the premier scoring forwards in the 1980s. Overall he averaged 24.6 PPG as a Maverick on .492 FG% and .742 FT%. His peak production was in the 1983-84 season averaging 29.5 PPG—still a franchise record—and a career-high .524 FG% as he made his first of three All-Star Teams.

That 1984 season also happened to be the first playoff appearance in Mavericks history. In averaging 25 points and 11 rebounds per game, Aguirre led the team past Seattle, 3-2, in the first round. In the second round, the Lakers pushed them out the postseason. The first of three such occasions for Aguirre and the Mavs unfortunately. But losing to the Showtime Lakers carries no shame even if it’s annoying.

As mentioned already, the Mavericks made the 1988 WCF and Aguirre was a beast in the series: 24.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and .518 FG%. The series was really the end of Aguirre’s time in Dallas as he sulked his way into a trade midseason to the Detroit Pistons in 1989. Aguirre wouldn’t be the first star player to leave a team on less-than-good terms and later be welcomed back.

Hopefully his number gets retired… and retired for him not this nonsense the Mavericks tossing around months ago…

#31 Jason Terry (2004-2012)

NBA Champion—Sixth Man of the Year

The Mavericks’ attempt to find a Sixth Man is the stuff of basketball comedy. Luckily in the 2007-08 season, they converted starting guard Jason Terry into their long-sought bench star.

Now Terry had been on the team since 2004-05 after the Mavs had traded failed Sixth Man Antoine Walker to Atlanta for him. Terry was absolutely good as a starter. Certainly no worse in talent or skill than when he became the Sixth Man. But JET’s conversion gave Dallas a fuel injection that just felt different. And besides he was gonna be on the court come clutch time whether he started or came off the bench.

His timely scoring in those knee-high socks and headband saved Dallas time and time again as he saddled up next to Nowitzki.

His finest Mavs moments came in the 2011 title run. In the Game 4 demolition sweep of the LA Lakers, Terry lodged 32 points including 9-10 shooting from downtown. In the NBA Finals versus Miami, he averaged 18 points on .494 FG% and .393 3PT%. In the decisive Game 6 on the road, doused the Heat with 27 points on 11-16 shooting.

So, yeah soar up to them rafters Terry. You deserve it.