The Wizards will play the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night which is the team’s French Heritage Night. You can buy specific tickets for the event here from the French American Chamber of Commerce. Today, we will talk about one part of Ian Mahinmi’s NBA career when he was with the Dallas Mavericks from 2010-12. Along the way, they won an NBA championship.
Remember June 12, 2011? It was Game 6 of that year’s NBA Finals between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat. Dallas headed into Miami with a 3-2 series lead and just had to win the game to upset the Miami Heat and their superstar trio of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. They won that game 105-95 and the Larry O’Brien trophy along with it.
Wizards fans felt poetic justice that day. Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood were traded there a year ago from Washington in light of Gilbert Arenas’ gun situation. Butler had season ending knee surgery from January and couldn’t play in Game 6. Haywood didn’t either because of a hip injury. But it was nice seeing Stevenson unable to feel his face when he scored 9 points off the bench with his trademark three pointers.
After seeing Butler, Stevenson and/or Haywood lose to James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 NBA Playoffs, this win was sweet.
But there was another man on that court. He played spot minutes in that Finals series and fouled more than he scored, though to be fair, backup centers are supposed to do that to make things tough for LeBron. That man was Ian Mahinmi. A man who is now part of this year’s Washington Wizards team.
Mahinmi scored 9 points and committed 15 fouls in three NBA Finals games which is sure to make the “Mahinmi Haters” laugh. But he was a backup center behind Tyson Chandler, Haywood and Brian Cardinal. His jobs was to make LeBron’s baskets tough. And sometimes, he didn’t succeed. Shoot, it happens to every post player who’s willing to defend the rim!
But in Game 6, Mahinmi played 11 minutes, including a key stretch to close the third quarter. He came in with 3:55 left to give franchise player Dirk Nowitzki a spell. But with 9.8 seconds left, Mahinmi grabbed an offensive rebound from a missed Shawn Marion shot and then made a buzzer-beating midrange jumpshot to finish the period to silence the Miami crowd.
In the fourth quarter, the Heat were able to get within four points — but it wasn’t enough when Nowitzki and Jason Terry finished the deal. But those few seconds helped. That play helped.
After the game, Mahinmi spoke in an interview to Ty Sefton about his experience playing a “major role” in the Mavericks’ championship win.
Mahinmi also gave a big thank you to Mavericks fans and planned on celebrating the title with his family and friends. After all, he said, “who knows when that’s gonna happen again.”
Fast forward eight years and Mahinmi is now playing for the Wizards after a four-year stint with the Indiana Pacers from 2012-16. Familiar Wizards alumni like Butler, Stevenson and Haywood are all retired from the NBA. But Nowitzki is still an active player with the Mavericks.
Nowitzki played last Wednesday in Washington for German Heritage Night when the Mavericks came and Mahinmi gave his thoughts on the future Hall of Famer, initially saying that he hated him.
“When I went [to Dallas in 2010], I was fairly young and I didn’t know what to expect,” Mahinmi said in an interview with Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “Coming from the Spurs to the Mavs, it’s a big rivalry. I used to hate those guys as a Spur. I used to hate Jason Terry. I used to hate Dirk.”
That hate would turn to love and respect after that 2010-11 NBA championship season. Mahinmi went on to say that he learned about Nowitzki’s work ethic and how he applied it to his game which includes push-ups on fingers instead of flat hands.
Like many European NBA players young and not-so-young, Mahinmi looks up to Nowitzki. And their friendship was possible, not just because they hold burgundy EU passports. They were teammates for two seasons including Dallas’ championship season against a Heat team many loved to hate.
For a few minutes in Game 6 in 2011, Mahinmi didn’t just give Nowitzki a few minutes of rest. He made a key rebound and delivered a basket to help set the Mavericks up for their best moment ever. That’s what teamwork’s all about.