Franklin High grad Jason Terry dribbled beyond the three-point line last night, his Mavericks leading the Heat by 4 points in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, with 35 seconds left. The shot clock showed just four seconds. Terry was being guarded, as he has all series, by LeBron James, a first-team NBA All-Defensive team member who’s also six-foot-eight to Terry’s six-foot-two. Terry crossed over, moved toward his teammate Dirk Nowitski. James relaxed for a nanosecond, seemingly anticipating a Nowitski screen, and giving Terry just enough time to do this.
Terry’s clutch three-pointer clinched Dallas’ victory, giving them a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. And it puts Terry close to a very unique accomplishment. Terry won a state basketball championship with Franklin in 1994 (and ’95), he won an NCAA basketball championship with Arizona in 1997, and is now one win away from an NBA title.
(It’s worth noting that Franklin’s title was their first since 1954, Arizona’s was their first and only NCAA title, and a Dallas win would be their first NBA title as well. Terry hasn’t slotted into championship teams, he’s helped create them.)
Visual evidence shows that Terry’s been thinking about completing this trio of championships–in the off-season, he had the NBA championship trophy tattooed on his right arm. The Internet is no help in determining how many players have accomplished the H.S.-College-NBA troika. Magic Johnson did it, as did Jerry West. I could not find a definitive list, though.
Terry’s performance in this Finals has thrust the long-time role player into the national limelight. Despite his 15,000-plus career points, in the top 20 of active players, Terry has never been seen as a star. He’s clearly the second option to Dirk Nowitski in the Mavericks offense, but being the second scoring option on a championship team is definitely something to puff your chest out about. The fact that the Heat chose to guard Terry with the all-World James shows just how much respect they have for him.
“Jet is a great scorer. He’s a great shooter, and he’s a great player,” said Dallas coach (and former Sonics broadcaster) Rick Carlisle after the game. Great player or no, Terry has struggled against James. He was scoreless in the second half of Game 1, and strugged again in Game 5. But his “dagger three” last night, right in James face, was the greatest shot of his amazing career.
How’d he make the shot? “Preparation,” he told a CBS Sports reporter after the game. “If you would’ve seen me (practicing at the arena) at 11:30 last night, you would’ve seen that exact same shot,” Terry said. Awesome.
Game 6 is Sunday at 5 p.m. If they don’t win that one, Dallas and Terry will get another shot at the title in Game 7 Tuesday at 6 p.m.