Throwback: When Mocking Dirk Nowitzki’s Bad Health Cost Dwayne Wade-Lebron James Their First NBA Title Together

Leading the 2011 NBA Finals series 2-1, Lebron James and D Wade-led Miami Heat almost had the NBA Championship in their grasp, until they mocked Dirk Nowitzki’s Illness.

Published on Apr 08, 2024  |  02:27 AM IST |  48.6K
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

The 2011 NBA Finals Series is remembered as one of the most enthralling final matchups in NBA history. A prime Miami Heat team, led by three future Hall-Of-Famers in Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh had cruised through serious competition to reach the finals. 

On the other hand were the Dallas Mavericks; a team that had faced a humiliating first-round exit in the previous season. Led by its enigmatic 7-foot center Dirk Nowitzki and veteran superstar Jason Kidd, the Mavericks were seen as the underdogs coming into the Finals.

A series filled with Heroics but marred by Controversy

As the series went underway, both teams showed equal levels of tenacity and determination to bring home the Larry O’Brien Trophy. With the series tied 1-1, the Heat edged out the Mavs by just two points in Game 3 to lead the series. 

The Mavs came back strong in Game 4 to level the series 2-2. Soon after, news broke out about Nowitzki's severe illness which made him questionable for the next matchup in Dallas. It was around this time that a clip started making rounds in the media showing Lebron and Wade mock coughing just before Game 5. Regardless of the reason behind the mocking, the timing wasn’t perfect.


In Game 5, a recovering Nowitzki helped the Mavericks to maintain a crucial lead and beat the Heat 112-103 to go up 3-2 in the Finals. Commenting on the entire mock fiasco in the postgame press conference, the German said, “I just thought it was a little childish, a little ignorant. I’ve been in this league for 13 years. I never faked an injury or an illness before. That just happened, it's over to me.”


Though Nowitzki never spoke much about the incident, he continued to hold his disappointment for it .

Dirk Viewed The Mockery as ‘Disrespectful’

In an interview with Yahoo Sports in 2022, the 14-time All-Star gave his honest take on the entire matter.

“We saw it after game 5. We were up 3-2 going back to Miami, that's when I saw it. Honestly, I just felt like it was a little disrespectful, but it didn’t add to my motivation if that makes sense,” he said.

The collective team effort by the Mavericks in Game 6 earned veteran stars Nowitzki and Kidd their first NBA title, forever etching their names in basketball history. 

Nowitzki was close to earning his first Championship back in 2006 but was stopped by Shaq and a young Dwayne Wade. Despite building a comfortable 2-0 lead, the Heat snatched victory away from the Mavericks with four back-to-back wins. 

Dirk Nowitzki’s career is a special one. A tall slender kid from Würzburg, Germany, about whom many said he won’t be able to get to the big leagues, not only reached the NBA, but also carved out a legendary career through sheer grit, belief, and determination.   


ALSO READ: When Dirk Nowitzki Received Offers from Lakers and Rockets but stayed loyal to the Mavs. 

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