The Miami Heat seemed to be on its way. During the 2011 NBA playoffs, Miami shook off its inconsistent regular season, and the "Big 3" 2010 free agent signees LeBron James and Chris Bosh, plus veteran Heat standout Dwyane Wade won four straight games in the Eastern Conference finals against the top-seeded Chicago Bulls. Miami looked sharp in a 92-84 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, and with 6:18 left in Game 2, Miami enjoyed a comfortable 15-point lead. So the Heat would be riding a six-game winning streak as the series shifted back to Dallas. Should LeBron get fitted for one of those championship rings he never delivered to Cleveland, as he had promised after announcing his decision to "take [his] talents to South Beach?"
Not quite. In one of the more stunning turnarounds in NBA history, Dallas erased the deficit: Dirk Nowitzki, who missed 11 of his first 17 shots and played with a splint on the middle finger of his left hand, nailed four of his last five, including a beautiful spinning left-handed layup with 3 seconds left, the difference in the 95-93 Dallas victory. Back in Dallas, after the Heat took Game 3, Nowitzki played Game 4 of the finals with a 102° fever, thanks to the flu, yet led Dallas to a series-tying victory. The next day, James and Wade appeared to mock Nowitzki's ill health while walking through the Dallas arena. Dallas took Game 5, and in Game 6 in Miami, Nowitzki bounced back from a horrible first half in which he shot 1 for 12 to finish with 21 points in Dallas' 105-95 series clincher. With 1.2 seconds left in the game, an emotional Nowitzki ran back to the locker room for a quiet moment. Throughout his career, the pioneering European had been labeled a soft player and a choker. Now the title was his, and he shed a few tears. Eventually, his teammates persuaded him to return to the court to accept the Finals MVP trophy.