At the end of the Dallas Mavericks' Game 6 victory in the NBA Finals in Miami last night, there was no sight prettier than Jason Kidd's turn with the trophy. A Hall of Fame-worthy player in what was likely his last chance to win a championship, Kidd wasn't the Kidd of old but he covered himself with glory nonetheless. Justice for a long, fruitful career. But it's not always a happy ending.
I remember years back covering the Philadelphia Flyers' loss in the 1997 final in Detroit. Dale Hawerchuk was a Kidd-like figure: rookie of the year, gifted All-Star and, when in his prime, a fixture in any conversation about the best 10 players in the game. Hawerchuk won it all with the Canadian team in the Canada Cup a couple of times, but in the NHL with Winnipeg it was heartbreak after heartbreak. He landed in Philadelphia and in that '97 final he was a very old 34.
He needed hip surgery. He was maybe 50 percent of his best, if that. Detroit rolled. I saw Hawerchuk in the dressing room after and I knew this was not just his last chance, but his last game. Injustice. That's the downside.
Who are the Kidds and Hawerchuks in this Stanley Cup final? I had some experience with the two guys who would be in the conversation if Vancouver raises the trophy tonight.