Come on, people. Was there really any doubt as to who would be number one on this list? Sure, there are other candidates; some who we’ve seen highlighted already. Shoot, for a while there, I contemplated putting a name on here to be number one that no one had brought up, and if her team was able to win the World Cup, the entire TSFJ Family would have been shocked, because Abby Wambach would not only have made the list, she would have been number one in my book.
However, that’s really the only other athlete I could have had at the number one spot. Ask anyone else associated with The Journal and the names would have run rampant, but when it’s all said and done, the athlete to grace the top spot of the five coolest of 2011 is none other than The Incomparable Dirk Nowitzki.
Dirk has had an amazing career, but he’s also been a part of some of the most unfortunate moments in NBA playoff history. If there was any NBA player who could use a makeover in the postseason, in regards to winning a championship and leading his team there, it was Dirk. Yes, Dirk needed to win and lead his team to a ring to restore his legacy more than The King himself, LeBron James. Well, not only did Dirk do it, but he left his mark all over the postseason.
See, what Dirk was able to do, from April to June, is bury all the criticism heaped on his head from the Ghost of Playoff Failures Past. He did so by helping the Mavs put away Portland after a despicable collapse in Game Four of their opening round series. Dirk destroyed Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and every other Laker defender who tried to check him, en route to a sweep of the Lakers in the Western Conference Semi-finals.
He made mincemeat of Serge I-Blocka, a man who had a field day against Nene, and who held his own against the formidable front court of Z-Bo and Marc Gasol. Against Dirk, though? He didn’t have a chance in hell. No other defender could do much either, and his Game One 48-point performance on 12-15 shooting from the field (WITH NO THREE POINTERS ATTEMPTED) and 24-24 from the foul line is evidence of that.
All the while, he did it in a cool way and was demonstrative as all hell. He threw his fingers up after spraying people’s faces off repeatedly. He yelled, talked crazy, walked with a limp (Texas Lingo) and truly had everyone on the Mavs team rally around him. Sure, it’s easy to say this after a title, but it was truly something to see his teammates swarm to him or watch them follow him from the podium after they won the Western Conference Championship. As Ed would like to say, Dirk made everybody give a damn.
As for the Heat, a team who may as well have had the Larry O’Brien Trophy engraved with their name on it before the series even began, he made timely shot after timely shot, made the right basketball plays and was there when his team needed him the most. When it was all said and done, he was holding up the Larry O’Brien Trophy, accepting the Bill Russell Most Valuable Player of The Finals award from The Great Bill Russell himself, and getting drunk at the club, but not just any club. It was one of Miami’s most well-known clubs in the city. What’s cooler than that?
He did it all this year and, by doing that, Dirk Nowitzki is, unequivocally, the coolest athlete of 2011.