In the 2002-2003 NBA season, Jason Kidd averaged 18.7 points per game, shot 41% from the field, had 31 double-doubles, and took his team to the NBA finals ... and lost. Eight years later, at a grizzly 38 years of age, Kidd finally got his ring.
Kidd came into the NBA as a brash youngster with just two years of college under his belt, and he promptly won the Rookie of the Year award and started in the All-Star game in his first year. He was a point guard known for being a key piece in the turnaround of the 1994 Dallas Mavericks and the 2001 New Jersey Nets teams. He led the Nets to two NBA Finals, in 2002 and 2003, but they were swept by the dominant Lakers (led by Kobe and Shaq) and lost to the Spurs (behind Tim Duncan), respectively.
On the 2011 Mavericks team, Kidd was a steadying presence but he wasn't the star anymore. Dirk Nowitzki scored more points and grabbed the headlines, and Jason Terry served as the guard who filled the bucket. But Kidd ran the point and led the team with 7.2 assists per game and 1.90 steals per game.
And he stepped up when he was needed.
Fans will remember the circus play that scored three at the halftime buzzer against the Clippers on Oct. 31 (from more than 75 feet away from the basket) and his 11,000 assist on Nov. 12--an alley-oop pass to Tyson Chandler. But his three pointer at :47 seconds left in the third quarter last night, in the game that gave Dallas the championship, was one of his biggest. It put the Mavericks up by eight points heading toward the fourth quarter, when the intensity level would go up a notch and the pressure on the Miami Heat would be tremendous.
In that last period Kidd made three of four free throws and had one assist--and played tenacious defense. And perhaps most important, he stabilized the team.
He kept us calm throughout this entire thing, said Mavericks center Tyson Chandler. We went through some tough times. But when you look at Jason Kidd, he's so calm. No matter if you're up 10, down 15, he has the same demeanor.
Now the kid out of Oakland has a premier trophy to go with his other accomplishments--second all-time career assists (11,578), third all-time career triple-doubles (107), and 10-time NBA All-Star.
It's a dream come true, Kidd said after the game. It's not real right now because--just the battles with the Heat and understanding the journey--it's been a long journey of 17 years.