The Mavericks’ home crowd is infamously one of the toughest and loudest venues in all of sports. Many deafening events have occurred in that arena, but here are Mavs Fans For Life’s ten most memorable moments from the rowdiest fans in basketball.
10. Luka’s first big game
In only the 24th game of Luka Doncic’s rookie season, the Mavs were matched up with the Houston Rockets on a Saturday evening. The Mavs found themselves trailing by eight with two-and-a-half minutes remaining, only for the Slovenian to completely take the game over. Just 19 years old, Doncic led a solo 11-0 run to give the Mavericks the lead and a big early-season win.
It was Doncic’s first major late-game heroics in a Mavs uniform. He had previously had strong games against the Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder, but his performance against the Rockets cemented him as a firm leader in the rookie of the year race. The entire throng at the American Airlines Center slowly crescendoed with every bounce of the ball off the right hand of the new star point guard.
9. Dirk eliminates Thunder in game five
Dallas was coming off a dramatic comeback win over the Thunder in game four of the 2011 Western Conference finals when Dirk Nowitzki drilled the biggest shot of his career to that point. After missing a wide open look seconds earlier, an offensive rebound landed Nowitzki the ball, who launched a missile from the top of the key into the bottom of the net to send the Mavs to the finals. ESPN clearly had to turn the volume down as the shot occurred, as the broadcast clearly shows a descending level of noise after the shot.
The Mavs crowd lost its collective mind from then on. Shawn Marion put he game away with an and-one dunk off a steal in the backcourt, and two more classic Nowitzki free throws iced it. Dallas held up their second conference championship trophy, this time with a sense of unfinished business.
8. Dirk scores 50 in the playoffs
The Mavericks were still ascending through the Western Conference playoffs in 2006 when they clashed with the Phoenix Suns in the conference finals. In a pivotal game five, the Mavericks were evened up 2-2 with the rival Suns when Dirk exploded for a playoff career high. The atmosphere at the American Airlines Center had begun to establish itself as one of the most hostile in the league, but that night, the crowd brought it in ways they hadn’t since the days of the 80’s.
Iconic PA announcer Billy Hayes announced to the shrieking crowd when Nowitzki was sitting on 47 points that he had reached a personal best for the postseason, only for Nowitzki to splash in yet another dagger three ball from the right elbow to seal the biggest win in franchise history to that point.
7. Mother’s Day Massacre
The Mavericks had absolutely shocked the NBA landscape by going up a resounding 3-0 over the two-time defending champion Lakers in the second round of the 2011 playoffs. Dallas won a nail biter in game one, won a bit more comfortably a game later, and then came back from behind again in game three. In the clinching game, there was still a sense among fans that the Mavs would collapse and become the first team to surrender a 3-0 first round series lead.
In game four, the Mavs shot the Lakers out of the stadium to push them out of the playoffs. They rained 20 threes on the Lakers, including 11 in the first half. Jason Terry nailed nine, Peja Stojakovic hit six, and J.J. Barea, Jason Kidd, Deshawn Stevenson, Nowitzki, and Brian Cardinal each hit one. The crowd got louder and louder after each made long ball, and famously began singing “Na Na Na Na Hey Hey-ey Goodbye” in the final few minutes of the game.
6. Game 3 against the Lakers
One game prior to the barrage in the closeout game, the series reached a tipping point in the first game in Dallas. The crowd at the AAC was extra juiced after seeing the Mavs grab two road wins, and were locked in a tight back and forth in game three. Down eight in the fourth quarter, Dirk and Peja went to work, drilling four threes and Nowitzki in particular scoring several insanely difficult buckets to put the Lakers away in the final moments.
Dallas improbably led 3-0, and the Mavs crowd couldn’t contain itself. A normally restrained Mike Green said in the final seconds, “This crowd has gone berserk at the American Airlines Center!” The series pretty much ended right then and there in Dallas.
5. Dirk dismantles Thunder in game one
Most of the sports media world felt that Dallas had reached its peak by reaching the conference finals. They were matched up with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who while the underdog, were substantially younger and more athletic than the veteran Mavs. Game one may well be the single greatest performance of Nowitzki’s illustrious career.
Dirk insanely went off for 48 points, without even attempting a three point shot. He made all 24 free throws he attempted, and went 12/15 from the field. In total, he went 36-39 against Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, and other premier post defenders. Nowitzki cemented himself as the best performer in the playoffs to that point, and led Dallas to their seventh straight playoff victory. The American Airlines Center began cheering even before the ball settled through the net on each of his record-breaking free throws, beginning to sense a trip to the finals was in the cards.
4. Dirk’s game 4 game winner against Heat
Down 2-1, it was do or die for the Mavs in game four against the Heat in 2011. Nowitzki played the game with the flu, and clearly was not himself as the game wore on. Dallas found itself trailing by nine early in the fourth quarter, and it looked as though the series and a chance at a championship was a few possessions away from being lost.
Dallas rallied, and found themselves leading by a point with under 30 ticks remaining after Dwyane Wade ironically missed a free throw that would’ve even up the game at 82. Dirk got one more look at the rim with about 24 seconds left, and blew past Udonis Haslem for what proved to be an indescribably crucial basket to secure a must-win. The noisy cauldron at the AAC exploded in joy as Dirk somehow got his layup over the rim and pushed Dallas’s lead to three.
3. Return from COVID for game 3
Like most of the world, the Mavs had gone through it a bit en route to their first round battle with the Clippers in this past year’s playoffs. Dallas, similarly to 2011, shocked the world when they stole both games in LA, and returned home with a 2-0 lead. The Mavs hosted a near full capacity crowd, their first since that infamous night against the Nuggets in March of 2020, and while it turned out to be a loss, the first half of the first quarter was as loud as any BNA stadium will ever get. Fans, stuck in their homes for months, returned to the arena and provided an atmosphere that Chuck Cooperstein would call the best crowd he had heard since the 2011 championship run. Dallas sprinted out to a 30-11 first quarter lead, after they dropped eight three balls on the overwhelmed Clippers. The crowd was so intense that the local Fox Sports Southwest camera was shaking throughout the whole opening frame. While the Mavs ultimately ended up losing the game, the home court advantage was historically great that night.
2. Game five daggers against Heat
The American Airlines Center had reached the loudest volumes it ever had according to many longtime season ticket holders in game five of the NBA Finals in 2011. The Mavs were inches from a championship, when Jason Kidd and Jason Terry buried the Heat for good with two enormous three balls to put the Mavs up three games to two and in the driver’s seat for the first time in the series.
The crowd exclaimed so loudly after each shot, that one could barely hear the announcers make the call of the game in the first place. Iconic radio broadcaster Chuck Cooperstein couldn’t even break through the sound despite screaming into his microphone at the top of his lungs. Dallas was in the lead for the first time in the series, and never looked back.
- Vince Carter buzzer beater against Spurs
The team’s two runs to the finals were obviously the most memorable moments in team history, Vince Carter’s game winner against the Spurs in the first round of the 2014 playoffs is as dramatic a moment as there’s ever been in franchise history. The game was, to this day, one of the loudest sporting events in any sport regardless of the stakes. The Mavs crowd was so intense, that Gregg Popovich resorted to using hand signals for every communication with his players.
Seismographs registered something out of the ordinary when Vince Carter dropped one straight out of the helicopter and through the net for the winning points to give Dallas a 2-1 series lead. They eventually lost the series, but it will go down as maybe the single noisiest moment in the history of the American Airlines Center.
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