Dirk Nowitzki is a perfect sports hero for the times. He is forthright, old school, dignified, and calm. He makes so many of the other preening players in sports today look like silly little kids.
Yes, LeBron, this means you, with your inability to excel in the clutch and your petulant comments after the game about how self-satisfied you are.
The Los Angeles Lakers self-destructed under a cloud of disharmony, immaturity, and selfishness in the second round. The Miami Heat has shown America the pitfall of cockiness. On paper, the Heat has a far better team than the Dallas Mavericks; of course. James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are three of the NBA's world-class players.
By contrast, Dirk is playing with an aging Jason Kidd and a bunch of role players you've probably never heard of, unless you live in the 214 area code.
This is a bad time for sports in general — steroids, abusive athletes, NCAA violations up the wazoo, and all of the rest of that stuff. It's about time a player stepped forward and showed how it gets done the old-fashioned way.
Dirk has toiled in relative obscurity for a decade in the NBA. When the Mavericks had their chances to shine, the Mavs' immaturity got in the way and Nowitzki himself had failed to step up and take charge.
Maybe it is true that good things come to those who wait. As John Lennon once mused, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." LeBron planned to cruise to his first NBA championship. He didn't count on worrying about Dirk & Co. He believed that talent would be sufficient to make it happen.
The moral of the story here is that character counts for more than talent most of the time. LeBron, who is a good, loyal teammate, can grow into becoming a hero for fans, once again — someday. He is still learning the ropes.
It took Dirk 13 years to find the way. It can be done.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here read his latest column.
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