It all started as a gift from a leading Texan businessman to his wife. “I was stupid enough to promise her a basketball team and had to keep that promise,” Don Carter said years later of his purchase of $12 million expansion Dallas Mavericks in 1980. At the time the people of Dallas weren’t sure if the city needed a basketball team. Dallas is, of course, home to “America’s Team” the Cowboys, who rival the New York Yankees as the most iconic sports team in the country. This was football country. But the Mavs were immediately embraced and have maintained one of the most loyal fan bases in the league. In a city used to the booms and busts of the oil business, they have experienced some real lows (most of the 1990s), and the highs, tasting championship success in 2011.
The Mavs still have a “sell-out” streak, the longest in all American sports right now that dates back to 2001. Mark Cuban has along with the help of a certain seven-foot German, has turned the Mavs into one of the strongest markets in the NBA. With Dirk Nowitzski a couple years away from retirement, Cuban is looking to enter a new era to the storied history of this franchise. This list showcases the best fifteen players that have added the most to the Mavs rich history.
15 Jim Jackson
After being drafted by the Mavs fourth overall in 1992 Jimmy Jackson played only 28 games due to a contract dispute with the organization. It would be a sign of things to come for Jackson who was unable to settle anywhere he played. The best years of his career however, were unquestionably in Dallas.
Averaging 19.2 ppg in his second year, Jackson became a fan favourite on a struggling Dallas team, exciting the crowd with his athletic dunking ability. He was soon joined by Jamal Mashburn and Jason Kidd and the trio became known as the “Three J’s.” The young Dallas line-up were seen by many as having a lot of potential. In 1994 Jackson scored 50 points in one game against the Nuggets.
A bad ankle sprain in 1995 caused Jackson to change his game, becoming less explosive on the open floor and more effective as an outside shooter. Mashburn then suffered a devastating injury and the “Three J’s” began to implode. Jackson and Kidd had a big falling out, with an unsubstantiated love triangle involving singer Toni Braxton at the center of the feud. By the start of the 1997-98 season all three had left. While Kidd would go onto have a Hall of Fame career, and Mashburn going onto better things in Miami and Charlotte, Jackson would hop from team to team eventually turning out for 12 total NBA teams in his career.
14 Tyson Chandler
The Mavs took a risk in 2010 bringing Tyson Chandler to Dallas in a trade with the Bobcats, after suffering two injury-ridden seasons in Charlotte. Chandler would turn out to the final piece that would transform Dallas into Champions.
A fan favourite due to his high intensity at both ends of the court, Chandler was hugely effective at Center during the 2010-2011 series. Going into the finals as underdogs, Chandler was a pillar in defence stopping the “Big 3” of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh.
After being so integral to the Mavs success, Chandler and Mavs fans alike were surprised to see him traded to the Knicks at the end of 2011, where he won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Chandler was traded back to the Mavs in 2014, and owner Mark Cuban said he had learned from his mistake, stating that Chandler was in Dallas for the long-term. Despite another impressive year Chandler found himself out of a contract, and, with much bitterness, signed with the Suns. For a player so instrumental in winning the Mavs only championship Chandler was poorly treated by Cuban. He will never be forgotten by Mavs fans, and is arguably their greatest Center ever.
13 Brad Davis
The original Dallas Maverick star joined the team in December 1980 midway through the Mavs first season, and at Point Guard, Brad Davis became almost immediately a stand-out player in those tough early days for the franchise. Soon the Mavs acquired Jay Vincent, Mark Aguirre, and Rolando Blackman, and they secured their first playoff spot in 1983-84. Derek Harper, who was drafted in 1983, would eventually replace Davis as starting PG, but Davis would continue to be an effective player off the bench.
His stats are not exceptional (8.2 ppg, 4.9 apg, and 0.8 spg), but Davis was deeply respected by fans and teammates. Derek Harper called him the hardest working player he ever played with. Davis gave everything he had for the franchise in the 12 years he was at Dallas. And after calling his career a day in April 1992, that November Davis’s no. 15 became the first number to be retired by the Mavericks organization.
12 Jerry Stackhouse
A huge star in High School and College, Jerry Stackhouse was dubbed the “New Jordan” while at UNC. He carried his success into the NBA where he was All-Star in 2000 and 2004 while playing for the Pistons. Despite Stackhouse's impressive individual performances his teams never had much success. Entering the second half of his career, Stackhouse moved to Dallas in 2004 where he reinvented himself as an extremely effective role player off the bench.
In 2005-06 Playoffs Stackhouse caught fire, scoring 18.5 ppg in the 4-0 sweep of the Grizzlies, averaging 16.0 ppg in an epic seven-game series with the Spurs, and 13.2 ppg in the 4-2 win over the Suns in the Western Finals. In Game One of the NBA Finals Stackhouse was fouled by Shaquille O'Neal so badly he needed three stitches. Stackhouse got his revenge in Game Four with a flagrant foul on Shaq as he went for the dunk. The act earned him a suspension for Game Five, and Miami went onto close the series out in six games.
Stackhouse only spent five years with Dallas where he had his fair share of injuries, but is still a very popular figure with Mavs fans for the role he played in that Mavs team that was the first to appear in the NBA Finals.
He also had quite the singing voice, sometimes singing the Star Spangled Banner before tip-off.
11 Jamal Mashburn
After a stellar four years at the University of Kentucky, All-American Jamal Mashburn was selected fourth overall in the 1993 Draft by the struggling Mavericks. The Mavs didn’t have a great season but Mashburn made the NBA All Rookie Team averaging 19.2 ppg during the season.
Adding Jason Kidd in 1994 the Mavs improved greatly as the pair alongside Jimmy Jackson becoming known as the “Three J’S.” In the 1994-95 season Mashburn averaged 24.1 ppg and dropped 50 points in one night against the reigning NBA Champions, the Chicago Bulls. The Mavs were supposed to only get better, but injury kept Mashburn on the sidelines for most of the next two years, and after a big falling out with both Jackson and Kidd left Dallas. Mashburn joined the Miami Heat in 1997, and then the Hornets in 2000 where he was selected as an All-Star in 2003.
Off the court Mashburn has been one of the NBA’s big success stories. On his website he writes: “Becoming a professional basketball player was always a means to an end. I also aspired to one day become a successful businessman who carried a brief case to work.” Returning to Kentucky after retirement Mashburn currently owns over 80 franchises including 40 Papa Johns and 38 Outback Steakhouses, with a personal net worth of over $45 million dollars.
10 Jay Vincent
Many old-school Mavs fans see the mid-80s as the “Golden Age” of Mavericks basketball, as the young franchise started to find their stride and contend for playoff spots. A big reason for the surge in Dallas’ success was the free-scoring Jay Vincent (Pictured above blocking a shot). After winning the 1979 NCAA Tournament with Michigan State alongside Magic Johnson, Vincent was a second round pick in the 1981 Draft. Averaging 21.4 ppg with a FG% of .497 in his Rookie year, Vincent finished third the Rookie of the Year voting. He continued to be a high scorer in his five years with Dallas helping the team reach the playoffs for the first time in 1984, before being traded to the Washington Bullets in 1986.
Vincent was recently jailed for a fraud conviction and spent four years inside. Released earlier this year Vincent has been looking to get his life back on track. He was most recently seen working at a burger restaurant in Lakeview, Michigan where he is seen greeting customers and sign autographs.
Vincent is still remembered with great fondness by those who saw him play in Dallas. There was an innocence to the early Mavs team which was encapsulated by the carefree style of which Vincent played the game. Vincent was a true star of the “Golden Age.”
9 Jason Kidd
When Jason Kidd was drafted second verall by the Mavs in 1994, he was expected to become the leader of one of the most promising young teams in the league. Alongside Jamal Mashburn and Jimmy Jackson the “Three J’s” immediately gelled. In his first year Kidd shared the Rookie of the Year Award with Grant Hill.
Behind the scenes there were ownership and coaching changes that led to problems within the organization. Big egos clashed in the locker room, particularly Kidd and Jackson who bizarrely found singer Toni Braxton come between them. Years later Mashburn expressed regret of what happened, that all the off-court issues, “Cost us being a pretty damn good basketball team.”
Kidd left in 1996, and indisputably had the best years of his career in Phoenix and New Jersey where he was a regular All-Star and led the Nets to consecutive NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.
But in 2008, at the back-end of his career, Kidd returned to the Big D and reinvented himself as the perfect role-player. In 2011 at the age of 38 Kidd finally got his ring helping the Mavs defeat the Heat in six games. Kidd’s lack of maturity had been a major reason for the implosion within the Mavs team of the mid-90s. At the end of his career his experience and leadership were a huge factor in the Mavs Championship success.
8 Steve Nash
Steve Nash was booed by Suns fans when he was drafted 14th overall in the 1996 draft. He had at least one fan in Mavs coach Don Nelson who eventually brought him to Dallas in a 1998 trade, and it would be in Dallas where Nash would flourish into one of the league’s elite point guards.
Nash arrived in Dallas at the same time they drafted Dirk Nowitzski, and the two would go on to form a great friendship. Both players struggled early on, and Nash was soon hearing boos from the Dallas fans. But when Mark Cuban purchased a majority stake in January 2000, it ushered in a new era for the Mavs. Alongside All-Star Michael Finley, Nowitzski and Nash blossomed, and with a 53-29 record in the 2000-01 regular season the Mavs clinched their first playoff spot for over a decade. Nash finally found love from the fans, making the All-star team in 2002 and 2003. He was also loved by his teammates who admired the unselfish way Nash played the game. He gained a reputation for making players around him better.
It seems unthinkable now, but in 2004 Cuban believed Nash’s best years were behind him and let him sign with the Suns. Nash was the perfect player to guide the young talent of Amare Stoudamire, Shawn Marion, Joe Jackson, and Quentin Richardson, and the “Seven Second or Less” Suns were born, with Nash winning the League MVP in 2005 and again in 2006.
7 Sam Perkins
Sam Perkins was well known as he entered the 1984 draft having won the NCAA National Championship alongside Michael Jordan in his sophomore year at North Carolina. Perkins was reportedly Tar Heels Coach Dean Smith’s favourite player. Smith had more confidence in Perkins succeeding in the NBA than he did in Jordan. Of course MJ would go on to be the best of all time, but the “quietly effective” Perkins would have a long and impressive career. After being selected fourth overall, he was immediately a fan favourite in Dallas, making the NBA All-Rookie team in his first year.
Perkins' versatility contributed to Dallas showing the nation that they had more than a football team during the 1980s. He played all front-court positions, and was a key player in the team that took Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers to seven games in the 1988 Western Conference Finals. He was the first Mav player to record a 30-20 (points-rebounds) against Houston in 1986, and dropped 45 in a career-high performance against the Warriors in 1990.
Leaving for LA as a free agent in 1990, Perkins would be a popular player everywhere he played, showing a unique ability to adapt quickly to new systems. He appeared in the NBA for the Lakers, Sonics, and Pacers but unfortunately never managed to be on the winning side.
6 Michael Finley
Dallas had a losing reputation for most of the 1990s. By the turn of the century they were considered serious contenders in the West, and the star of that team was Michael Finley.
After a stand-out Rookie year in Phoenix, Finley was traded to Dallas in 1996 as part of a huge trade that included sending Jason Kidd to the Suns. Finley lead the team in scoring, assists, and steals in his first year. He was joined two years later by Dirk Nowitzski and Steve Nash, and while they took a while to blossom, it would be Finley who stood out as the leader of the Mavs.
Gradually Nowitzski developed into a superstar, and after letting Nash go to the Suns in 2004, owner Mark Cuban decided he couldn’t afford to keep Finley either and let him go to the Spurs as a free agent in 2005, where he won a Championship in 2007.
Now retired Finley is back with the Mavs as Assistant Vice President. Finley has maintained a close relationship with Mark Cuban, and many believe he go on to become Head of Basketball Operations at the organization.
5 Derek Harper
While Dirk Nowitzski dominates most top Mavs stats, Derek Harper, who played Point Guard for over 10 years, still tops the list in assists (5111) and steals (1551). As point guard for the Mavs during the mid-1980s Harper was the orchestrator of the strong Dallas offence which included Rolando Blackman, Sam Perkins, and Mark Aguirre. Harper was also top performer on defence, and was named in the NBA All-Defensive Teams in 1987 and 1990.
After three seasons in college for the Fighting Illini, Harper was drafted 11th overall in 1983. With the popular Brad Davis keeping him on the bench for the first few years, Harper cemented himself as starting PG by the 1986-87 season. He established a clinical back-court partnership with Rolando Blackman and was a key member of the team that came within one game of the NBA Finals in 1988.
Harper and Blackman would both be reunited in New York and were part of the 1994 Knicks who lost to the Rockets in seven games during the Finals. Harper’s contributions at both ends of the court and his unselfish play means he arguably should be even higher on this list.
4 Jason Terry
Joining the Mavs from the Hawks in 2004, Jason Terry already had a reputation for being an outstanding scorer, and quickly formed a formidable offensive partnership with Dirk Nowitzski. Delighting fans with late-game scoring, Terry was a go to guy at crunch moments. He came up short, however, when it mattered most. In Game Six of the NBA Finals, down 3-2 to the Heat, Terry went cold, missing a three-pointer at the end that would have taken the game into overtime.
It was a tough moment for Terry, enough to break certain players. Many wondered if Terry had what it took to make Mavs contenders again. Nowitzski publicly defended Terry and said he needed him alongside him.
Terry never lost belief in himself. In October 2010 Deshawn Jackson hosted a small preseason get-together for his teammates. Terry chose the occasion to roll back his sleeve and unveil his latest tattoo. It was of the Larry O’Brien Trophy on his bicep. Everybody, including many of his teammates thought Terry was crazy. Dallas were certainly one of the better teams in the West but not fancied to go all the way.
Whether the Mavs won often depended on how well played Jason Terry played. And most nights during the 201-11 season Terry stepped up. Facing the Heat in the 2011 Finals, this time with Lebron James in the line-up, Terry was outstanding for most of the series. In Game Six, it was Nowitzski who went cold and Terry took over, scoring a game-high 27 points. He scored 19 in the first half while Dirk struggled. In the fourth uarter, Nowitzski finally found his rhythm scoring 10 points to close the game, giving Dallas their first ever NBA Championship. And Terry wouldn’t have to get his tattoo removed.
3 Rolando Blackman
When Dallas selected Rolando Blackman ninth overall at the 1981 Draft, he became the first Panamanian-born NBA player, and became a star in the early years of the franchise. One of the best shooters of the 1980s, Blackman was a four time-time All-Star while in Dallas, and was the franchise's leading scorer with 16,643 points before a certain German-born forward eclipsed his record in recent years.
Loved by fans and teammates alike, Blackman is the only former Mav other than Brad Davis to have his number retired. Considered one of the genuine good guys of the game, during his whole time with Dallas, Blackman never fouled out of a game. Blackman currently lives in Dallas where he is a scout for the Mavs, and also serves on the board of the Assist Youth Foundation which aims to improve the lives of underprivileged children in the DFW area.
2 Mark Aguirre
It was tough being a Mavs fan in the early years. A friend of mine recalled a time she had floor seats to a game in the early '80s, during which an exasperated Mark Aguirre turned to her wearily, saying, “This is embarrassing.” That summed up the fortunes of the early-'80s Mavs. It would be Aguirre, however, who would provide the moment that legitimized the Mavericks in the eyes of many, during the 1982-83 season when he drained a game ending three-pointer to beat the indomitable Lakers.
Later as a coach Mark Aguirre described the way he played the game:“Very hard tough basketball is what I like. It like everything to be a totally exhausting type of basketball.” This is exactly the attitude the Mavs needed in those early years, and it was this approach to the game, along with Aguirre’s excellent scoring, that spearheaded the Mavs rise from chronic losers to genuine competitors in the West. Aguirre, was the star of the Mavs team that was one game away from reaching the NBA Finals in 1988 against the Lakers.
Aguirre was traded to the Pistons in 1989 to join his boyhood friend Isiah Thomas. Aguirre was a good fit for the “Bad Boy Pistons” and collected two Championship rings in 1989 and 1990, but often found himself challenging Dennis Rodman for a place in the line-up.
1 Dirk Nowitzki
Only 14 players on this list need to be debated. The player who tops this list of the greatest players to ever put on the Mavericks jersey is unlikely to be argued for many, many years.
There is very little more pleasing about being a fan of a pro-sports team than seeing a young player with incredible ability, watch them harness their talent, work on their game, and go on to be better than you ever imagined, while becoming a true legend of the game. Very few teams are honoured to have such a player. The Bulls had Michael. The Lakers had Magic. The Celtics had Larry. The Mavs have Dirk.
After joining Dallas in 1998 at the age of 19, Dirk Nowitzki struggled to adapt to the NBA at first, accused of being too soft for the league. Coach Don Nelson was convinced he possessed possibly the purest shot the game has ever seen, and Nowitzski would soon evolve into a superstar, leading the Mavs to the NBA Finals in 2006 and winning the league MVP in 2007. He revolutionized the Power Forward position, and to put it simply, seven-footers aren’t supposed to be able to shoot like that.
Of course to be considered a true great of the hardwood floor, you need a ring to show for it. In the 2011 NBA Finals Nowitzski was Finals MVP in the 4-2 series win over Lebron’s Miami Heat, brining Larry O’Brien trophy to Dallas for the first and only time.
Nowitzski signed a two-year deal on July 27th 2016, squashing any doubt he would end his career with any other team. During this time, he will almost certainly become only the sixth player to record 30,000 career points. Of course at the age of 38 he is not the player he once was, but the people of Dallas should make the most of having the opportunity to observe arguably the greatest athlete to ever represent their city.