As I dug through the tape from Game 6 in search for reasons why LeBron James was on autopilot during the most important game of his life, my focus began to shift away from his lifeless body and onto something else.
A No. 15 Heat jersey was all over the court Sunday night.
Whether it was diving into passing lanes or attacking the stingy Dallas zone, Mario Chalmers was giving it everything he had.
A player who’s game I once dubbed as bipolar had a look in his eye. He was playing with a fire unmatched by anyone on Miami’s roster not named Dwyane Wade.
Although he finished with 18 points, his 41 percent shooting from the field and 29 percent from three were by no means efficient. The seven assists were nice, but not the three turnovers. It always has been one step forward, one step back with Chalmers ever since he came into the league as an immature rookie three years ago.
But he showed us something Sunday night that won’t be found on any stat sheets.
There was a reason Erik Spoelstra inserted Chalmers into the starting lineup that night. There was a reason he played him 39 minutes. It wasn’t just because Mike Bibby was having arguably the worst individual playoffs in NBA history.
Sure, the BHP’s (Bone headed plays) we’ve grown to expect from the third-year guard were sprinkled in through out the playoffs, but by the end, I no longer cringed when he had possession of the ball for more than one second.
While he will never come close to matching the skill of a supernatural talent like James, the self-proclaimed King can take something away from Chalmers.
It’s safe to say he will never be a star in this league, but he will always have a champion’s heart. And his play greatly increased his chances of returning to the Heat next year.
There’s a reason he has won at every level of basketball up until the NBA, including an NCAA Championship win at Kansas, in which he made one of the most clutch shots in basketball history.
Rio wanted the ball on Sunday and I wanted him to have it. I actually preferred him with the ball over James.
I never in a million lifetimes thought I would say that, barring Mario holding a gun to my head.
Playing on a stage like the NBA Finals becomes less about skill and more about desire. Yes, they all want it but it’s about who wants it more.
Both teams are going to be elite. The Mavericks and Heat didn’t get that far by chance.
In championship games, it’s never about the measurables. This is where the statistics fly out the window.
It’s about having a group of players playing as one and seizing the moment.
The Mavs, from Dirk Nowitzki to Brian Cardinal, wanted it more than Miami did. I felt it. I could see it. Miami had enough talent, but lacked enough heart.
Chalmers and Wade wanted it. Chris Bosh didn’t know what it was and LeBron was already on vacation.
In the end, it wasn’t enough.