DONUT 1: If you allowed yourself a passing interest in sports related entertainment, you couldn't avoid its presence. From the anticipation, to "The Decision," to the unveiling that may have seen two players wear their uniform for the first time in a manner of celebration generally reserved for those who have accomplished more … to accomplishing something.
DONUT 2: Then came the boasts ... "Not one (championship), not two, not three, not four, not five ...'' ... a near-endless barrage of unabashed arrogance practically begging the league to bow before the wave gathering above, and the force soon to crash down. Counting the championships before a preseason win had been attained. Claiming things would be "easy" once the games began, inherently implying the most difficult leg of their journey had already concluded.
DONUT 3: Even if your sporting interests rested primarily outside of the NBA, if you found the remote more than an arms-length away with a sports channel on your television screen, you knew these things.
DONUT 4: Perhaps the cast of three, along with a host of irrelevant background crossers not required or included in the preseason ode to self, naively failed to recognize the set they'd constructed to host their 24/7 reality program -- "The LeBron James Show,'' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle called it on Sunday night, not meaning to sound too snarky and hitting just the right note -- the storylines they opened, the film they practically demanded we see them through.
You may give them this benefit of the doubt, but in doing so you label them immensely unaware of the world beyond their cocoon of self-adulation, playground dreams and swollen entitlement. Either way, beyond this oasis of self flowed the anonymity of almost everything else.
DONUT 5: Lost in this were the players who didn't chase a wormhole in the process, something shorter than a straight line. Overlooked were those who wore the scars of what sport so often tries to reaffirm: there is indeed a process, a trial by error that yields weathered but sturdy dispositions. A refinement of "killer instinct" that first shows you the missteps to avoid the next time around.
Lost was the decision to hold to a loyalty so obvious other teams never even attempted, really, to lure Dirk Nowitzki away from the Dallas Mavericks. In the summer of the most hyped free agency period in history, with multiple teams having forged large reserves with the direct purpose of luring big-name players their way, none shy of self-appointed GM Steve Nash even bothered checking with the big German who had given every game of his NBA career to one team.
Despite the fact that he was coming off the pain of a first-round ouster, the third in four years; a second seed wasted, trampled by the seventh-seeded San Antonio Spurs. If ever the time was to be ripe to seduce away one of the game's best players, it had arrived.
"This is all pretty fresh," Dirk said soon after being eliminated by the Spurs. "I just have to keep my options open at this point, see what's going on."
Scary words, at the time.
With his options open, the calls didn't come. This wasn't a talent issue, but one of loyalty, a loyalty evident even as Dirk shared his wanting to feel out the process, it was followed by genuine sentimentality.
"I always said I want to finish my career here in Dallas," Dirk said only moments later. "It wouldn't feel the same putting on a different uniform. That always was my plan, so we'll just have to wait to see."
Through all of the hurt, all of the disappointment coursing through him in that moment, the genuine nature of his desire to stay with the Dallas Mavericks bore its way to the forefront of his thoughts, his consistently unfiltered words.
DONUT 6: The work had been put in, the foundation laid. His sweat, his blood had been shed through the process of creating a career, a life, a family and a history with the Mavs. No other destination could replace those roots with anything but shallow hopes. He was the Dallas Mavericks, and the Mavs were Dirk Nowitzki.
Regardless of his decision last summer, a decision that would not be hyped, would not be paraded around the country, would not find its conclusion on a nationally televised special where those who loved him, those who shared the heartbreak of his past failures, those who dared to believe their bond was too strong to be massacred for the entire nation to witness; Dirk's eventual banner flying high in the AAC was an inevitability.
He'd already earned that.
Yet, the battle he'd begun was incomplete. He, his teammates, his owner, his family, wore the skin battered and thickened by the dreams that had dared tread so close, dared to slip near enough to see every beautiful line, only to dance just beyond the fingertips and flutter away.
In Dallas, the dues had already been paid. The bonds already forged. Any other team, any other city, may have come with the promise of his ultimate prize, but it wouldn't have been the same. The initial wounds would go unattended, and, in the end, an ugly, often deceptive truth may have been waiting.
That truth: there are no promises in sports in either today or tomorrow, only in yesterday. You cannot promise a title. You cannot make guarantees in an un-tampered playing field. They simply don't exist.
Perhaps in some way, Dirk Nowitzki felt this. Felt what he would be leaving behind, what he would forfeit, what he would be turning his back on. To come this far, only to wash it away and start anew wasn't what he was looking for.
He wanted a ring (or whatever Mark Cuban may have in mind), and he wanted a ring his way, with his teammates, his brothers in arms, for the only NBA city he'd ever known. He wasn't ready to concede all that he had fought for was destined to die in futility.
Instead, he took his heart back to where it was planted and prepared to once again build upon the pedestal his sweat, his blood, and his elations, his frustrations stacked to form. He wasn't one year closer to desperate alternatives, but one step higher, one season closer to the sky he'd strived to touch for so long. Only, he didn't know it yet, and still he came.
DONUT 7: Was there luck involved? Absolutely. Was there a chance things wouldn't end as they have, as the 2011 NBA Champions? More than a chance. Was the position he found himself in different than the vast majority of players of his stature? It was … but only because he demanded that it be so.
DONUT 8: As he wandered the court with both of his hands folded over his head in the final moments of Game 6, as he heard that buzzer sound, like a bizzaro alarm clock sending him into his wildest dream rather than waking him from it, as he became overwhelmed by the moment, the reward for every sacrifice he'd ever set before the NBA alter, and quickly made his way from the court, there was an undeniable truth evident to all who saw.
This was how it was supposed to be. Anything else would have been tarnished, would have somehow been incomplete, for the goal would have been reached, only that which was left unfinished would whisper softly forever in the background.
DONUT 9: His new home would have loved him. They would have honored him, but they wouldn't be able to share in the scars that created the man. They'd only have the success. Miami may be in the process of forming this bond, but for Dallas and Dirk, it was already there.
DONUT 10: His new home would've loved him, but not like we love him. The thousands and thousands of Mavs fans who have been with this team on Dallas Basketball.com, who spent their dimes to Go Mavs and Go Premium! ... who want to wear the Dirk t-shirt that Dirk himself helped birth in the Mavs DB.com Store ... the people who buy front-row seats and the people who can only dream of attending a game. ... they couldn't do for him what you do for him.
It's all come together. For The UberMan. And for us.
"Look, Miami's time is going to come," Carlisle said. "Their talent is undeniable. At some point it's going to carry the day. There is no doubt about that. But there time is not now. Our time is now."
DONUT 11: Last Sunday, as Dirk shed his tears alone far from the eye of the camera, hidden from those who have shared his hurt, the moment was alone … only millions of fans that understood his flood of emotion as much as any fan is capable of, shared that moment, those tears, with him.
Because Dirk Nowitzki is the Dallas Mavericks, and the Dallas Mavericks are Dirk Nowitzki; just as they are Jason Terry, just as they are Jason Kidd. They are one. They are a team. They are family. And, built upon the shoulders of yesterday, their time is now.
DONUT 12: There is a parade today. It's being paid for by Cuban, hosted by the Mavs, enjoyed in person by a quarter of a million people, watched on FS Southwest by a skillion others ...
But to me, this is Dirk's parade. In no small way, this is Dirk's team, Dirk's title, Dirk's city and Dirk's parade ... all done Dirk's Way.